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2016: The Gifts We Shared

Hello friends,

We have been overwhelmingly blessed for such an abundant 2016 for Acts of Sharing and Common Change, right here in Austin, TX and all over the world. Our Austin group itself raised over $2,700 for our neighbors last year, and got to meet almost every month to get to know each other deeper and talk about the things most important to us.

We are lucky we have so much to celebrate! Abroad, Common Change UK just became official as a UK charity this month. Here in the US, we added 6 new groups just last week! Nationally we total 242 groups this year. This hugely increases our ability for extending growth and support, and we are very excited to see what another year of growth can do for our communities.

As you read through the stories above, I hope you can remember each time of community and sharing we had, and know how deeply we appreciate and value your presence. We can’t wait to see you. Let us know if you or any guests can make it to dinner in 2017! Your place is already set.


Your friends in sharing

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The Generosity of Total Strangers



written by a friend after a Generosity Dinner in Austin, Texas, August 2016 

This year, our family has experienced deep disruption as we’ve had to move out of our home and part with most of our possessions due to mold. It is only through the grace of friends and family who have come alongside us that we’ve been able to make a new start.

  • So much of the loss and grief has been balanced by the love we’ve felt from those who have cared for us, and I’m grateful that my children have been able to experience this firsthand.


One of the unique blessings of this has been the way people we don’t even know have come alongside us. We received a gift through Common Change simply because someone advocated for our need, and others chose to share in that.


The generosity of total strangers stirs a depth of gratitude and joy unlike anything else we’ve experienced.


On family, generosity, and creating a space for vulnerability


written by a friend after a Generosity Dinner in Austin, Texas 

As I sat at the generosity dinner* on a Tuesday night in November, I reflected on the people who’s lives had intersected mine and which of them might benefit from a financial gift from my community. I thought critically about my friends and coworkers, trying to decipher recent conversations to determine if any of them had hinted at needing some extra cash to pay medical bills or needing to replace the tires on their car and not knowing where they would get the money. As I contemplated, one person kept coming to mind- my sister.

My sister is a single mother of an adorable son. She’s an incredibly resilient and determined person. And I’d like to think I share some of her qualities. But there’s one particular way we are not similar in the least, and that’s sharing our emotions. I’m an open book- I share nearly everything with my family and friends which has always helped me feel very connected to my parents and siblings. But my sister is much more hesitant to share with those around her.

It is rare for her to readily speak on her thoughts or emotions even to the people closest to her, so I was very surprised to be visiting her and my nephew a few months ago and she began divulging that she felt very overwhelmed with the task of keeping the household running. Her to-do list included repairing their fence, purchasing and installing a new dishwasher, repairing the lawnmower, and several other items. As she rattled the list off I was a bit shocked and I really wasn’t sure how to respond. It was so unlike my sister to be open about this kind of thing that I didn’t even recognize the opportunity to help her.

  • It’s a weird thing when you realize your family is in need.


It hits you hard. Here was this person whom I love and care about but it’s taken me so long to see that they could use a helping hand when all this time I’ve been “trying to find someone” for my community to honor and bless in whatever way we can. Honestly, it’s laughable.

But I think that stems from the lack of space for vulnerability that exists in our society. My sister and I had never created a place where we could be open and honest with each other about the struggles we are facing. Like so many other relationships I have, we both unconsciously entered into a mutual, social contract to never explore those places of perceived weaknesses, fears, or vulnerability.

The unspoken agreement to never discuss money is so prevalent in our society it seems vulgar to divulge things like your rent, car payment, student loan amount, or salary. The problem with this general lack of capacity for vulnerability is that it allows us to hide our needs and struggles from people. We then feel ashamed when we do need help, especially financial, even though we may be apart of a community that is so willing to lift us up in support.

At the generosity dinner that night I mentioned my sister could use a financial gift to help pay for the ever-growing list of repairs and replacements needed around her home. My community voted and decided to help fund her.

I was so grateful that my friends wanted to help me support my sister but at the same time I was nervous to tell her. Because we hadn’t openly discussed her needs before, I was really anxious about how she would take it. Would she feel like I was disloyal by telling others of her situation? Would she be upset because it felt like I didn’t think she was strong enough to do it on her own? (Which is totally not true- my sister is amazing and incredibly tenacious).
I wanted her to see that this was out of love, out of genuine care for her and my nephew. That it wasn’t charity and it wasn’t pity, but it was our way of being generous. It was my way of helping her the very best that I knew how.

I told my sister over the phone and she cried. There are very few times I can recall my sister crying.

  • It touched me in a way that I hadn’t imagined it would and showed me a side of my sister I don’t think I’ve ever seen. She thanked me and she thanked the community.


But honestly, I am thankful to her.

I am thankful to my sister for being open with me and honest about where she was and how she was feeling.

I am thankful she broke through that unspoken agreement that we couldn’t be vulnerable with each other.

I thank her for changing our relationship and changing it for the better.


6 Extravagant Ways to Share the Holiday!

When we get into the holiday season, the biggest challenge is trying to stay present with the people that you love.  With all the gifts and running around you might think you have to do this holiday, here are 6 extravagant ways you can love your friends, family and neighbors, without having to go shopping at all!

1 Handwritten Notes: Have you noticed how much more valuable a words tend to be than most gifts?  A handwritten note chronicling the reason why someone is great, or why you love them is a simple and time-honored tradition that has become more cherished as time passes.  There’s something about taking the time to put pen to paper.

2 Singing Telegrams: I was walking in my neighborhood and happened along a car for singing telegrams here in Austin.  Of course we would have them!  If you’re looking for a little creativity or a way to surprise someone in your life with some words of affirmation, getting them a singing telegram will do the trick.  And make a memory too.

3 Donate Money to a Non-Profit of Your Friend’s Choice: Want to show someone you love that you’re listening?  How about making a donation in that person’s name to an organization they care about?  In Austin we celebrate the work of thousands of nonprofits, and giving to a cause that your friend or family member cares about demonstrates the kind of solidarity that makes a difference in more ways than one.

4 Make a Meal and Bring it to a Friend or Neighbor: This practice is common for those in need (see Care Calendars) but what about people who are just busy, or happen to live nearby?  Nothing is nicer than to come home to a home-cooked meal, but how much better is it to know that someone you love made it just for you … and brought it over?

5 Offer to Babysit for a Family in Your Community: As loveable as most kids are, their parent (s) will tell you, a night away is a welcome respite.  Especially around the holidays.  So get with a family in your community and choose a night where you can give them a date, a night out, or the chance to just relax. If you’ve got parent (s) in your community who have young ones, this will be a huge blessing, and an opportunity to invest in that couple’s marriage or the community of a single-parent.  Step up and give someone the time to invest in themselves!

6 Gather with Friends, Pool Money, and Meet a Need of Someone You Know: Get together with friends for a Generosity Dinner.  This Advent Season, commit to blessing someone extravagantly with your community.  Being able to share needs over a meal and let someone in difficulty know they’re not alone is a way to practice the generosity of Advent in real time.  It’s also the perfect way to keep the spirit and hope of Advent throughout the year.  


Brian Boitmann

A Coffee Date with Our Founder

Acts of Sharing Brian Boitmann

Q&A With AOS Founder, Brian Boitmann

What’s the story behind what drove you to create the platform for Acts of Sharing?

Our college community was talking about ways to save money, and we realized how many items we all could use together that we all owned, from textbooks to clothing to tools.  I was also reading a book entitled “The Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne, which spoke of the Christian life in its truly radical terms, and this was ultimately reflected in Acts 4:32,

“All the believers were one in heart and mind, and no one considered anything his own, but they shared everything they had.”Acts 4:32

It reflected what became our name and helped us focus the platform toward enabling friends and communities to share their goods locally.


Was it ‘go go go’ from the start of your idea for Acts of Sharing, or did you ever have any hesitation?

I was in graduate school at the time, and to start Acts of Sharing required me to make a decision on whether to continue my study.  While I would have loved to do both, I was fairly certain from the outset that this was something I deeply desired to do.  While it took a bit of time to formulate, I felt I was always looking to go in this direction.


What were, and what have been, some of the largest problems you have run into with growing Acts of Sharing?

First off, let me mention our greatest strength.  We have so many excellent people contribute their skills and their time sacrificially to grow Acts of Sharing.  I have been so inspired by our team and those that have worked with us, and it has made a huge difference in where we are today.

As I look at why we have scaled to uber levels, I think we did not focus ourselves well enough on certain kinds of items.  Because we kept things open-ended, I think it made it harder on people who wanted to use the site just once.  We are working to address this as we speak here.  I also think we are ahead of our time in many ways.  I firmly believe in the near future that we will be able to make the items we purchase immediately available to those we want to share with.

What is the best piece of advice a mentor has given you?

Lead from the front.  To ask people to follow you means sacrificing first.

What inspires you to try and live a life of Sharing?

It looks a lot like Jesus, in terms of loving others as yourself.  I think today it also reflects an antidote to many issues.  Sharing focuses you on living relationally and locally.  You talk to people and you learn to trust people.  You make changes where you are rather than talking about them.  It’s living sacrificially in many ways, but there is an integrity to that, and it’s something that I believe can change the way we live as communities everywhere.

  • Some people say “wouldn’t it be great if we all cared about one another” and I say let’s do it.


What have been some of the largest ‘lightbulb’ moments you have had along the way?

F Focusing on communities.  You need to start with what is already working, and we’ve seen how effective that has been in limited time. People love being together with the people they’re willing to share with.  So let’s start where it works best and build from there.

T Try it before you buy it.  When we launched our app at SXSW, we gained a lot of excitement around the idea that you could shop to borrow rather than buy.  I think focusing even more on the interaction with people’s developed routines was a great move for us, and helped focus us on making our tools easy.  We have to remind ourselves of this constantly with things changing so quickly.

P Partnership with Common Change.  Our work has been connected for so long I’m thrilled we are finally working together as one.  But more than that, the people who use our tools will love what each of us are about, so it makes sense for us to work more closely, for the sake of those we serve.

Where would you like to see Acts of Sharing in one year?

Serving communities in multiple countries with refined tools.  I think we have found some exciting answers to questions we’ve been asking for a long time, and in the next year you will see these tools being used across the world.  That’s something we’re very excited about it.

What do you believe is greatness?

Being willing to give your life away for the sake of someone else, especially someone who doesn’t care much for you in return. And the city of Vienna on a sunny day.

Brian Boitmann