By: Jason

What is enough? Author and Atlanta local Jeff Shinabarger explores this question through an engaging read on the principals of applied generosity.  Shinabarger takes us into the lifestyle of someone who resolves to expand the reach of their personal community to those who have both more and less than them in the efforts to grow in perspective, understanding of the local community, and a deeper and more genuine compassion for people everywhere.

The book begins with a story of a local man named Clarence whom Jeff meets and gives a Cincinnati Reds baseball cap to.  Clarence loves the hat and wears it everywhere while looking for local work mowing lawns.  Jeff and Clarence become friends after Jeff loans Clarence his cell phone.  The story is honest and simple, setting the stage for the overall narrative of the book: looking into how our lives change when we merge ourselves into community with others of all economic stripes.

Each chapter takes the reader through a journey of evaluating exactly how much of something is enough.  What is enough time or transportation or food? How many t-shirts become too many t-shirts?  Each chapter explores these questions and offers insightful stories to coincide with the questions.  Perhaps the most unique aspect of the book is the ending of each chapter.  There you will find a heading that says, “Enough Talk”, and then begins to lay out a particular challenge for the reader to undertake in the pursuit of truly applying the books concepts to real life.

I think the ending of each chapter is where this book really shines.  Jeff has a natural voice to tell these stories of his wife and friends who have experimented with various methods of solidarity and community and then articulating the beautiful results.  For instance, for Lent one year Jeff’s wife Andre decided to give up driving to work and walked the entire distance to the office where she is a Physician’s Assistant.  She did this in solidarity with her many patients who were frequently late for appointments due to rain, buses running late, and the everything else we who travel all distances by car can’t fully appreciate.  It’s a touching story and memorable and it is certainly told well.  But what happens at the end of each chapter is where we, the reader, can move from being a consumer of the book and into the active role of participant.  Shinabarger lays out creative questions and actual, real-life, put it into practice challenges to engage the reader into experiencing this kind of lifestyle for themselves.

Since finishing the book last week, I have been thinking of what I want to do. I want to do something, and the wheels are turning.  This book gave me a lens to see what a conscious life of community and love can look like, right in my own neighborhood.  This has to be true because the Shinabargers live in the same neighborhood I do. There is really no excuse.  Yet the tone of the book is not about getting your tail kicked, making you feel bad about yourself, and trying to get you off the couch and make a change so you’ll feel better about yourself.  The agenda, from what I gathered, is to invite the reader into an on-going experience of change: change from within, change in fluidity with community, and change in the way we interact with the world around us.

A few weeks ago there was a friend and donor who dropped by with some friends to donate arts and crafts supplies for our kids staying at Gateway.  We were talking about Gateway and she was peppering me with questions about our other needs.  She found out that we have a playroom that is currently a work in progress.  She was getting excited about the possibilities of getting involved when she stopped and said, “I just finished reading this book called “More or Less” and now I can’t stop thinking of creative ways to engage in things like this.”

I think that statement is the best recommendation I can give for the book.  My suggestion is to pick up a copy today.

More or Less: Living a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity, By: Jeff Shinabarger