Duane Smith | Giving and Investing in the Future

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

At the age of 31, my life was a train wreck! Among many character flaws, I was a financial disaster. I would tell bill collectors, “Duane Smith moved to Vietnam. Stop calling!” 

At the time, I was such a broken person — on every level. 

In desperation, I decided to start attending church, just as my parents had insisted in my youth. The words of a preacher inspired me to critically evaluate how the different areas of my life, including a commitment to giving, did or did not reflect the faith that I claimed. How a person manages their time, their talents and their resources, should consistently reflect their faith. 

I needed to honor my debts, and I wanted to support my church, but I did not think I could. I had massive credit card debt, rent, utilities, food, gas, insurance, etc. 

Still, I wanted to contribute to the church. I wanted to invest in the place that provided me with hope! 

So, I structured a plan to give. While my giving was minimal, I created a financial plan! At the time I did not realize it, but when you commit to a financial strategy…you move forward, rather than back.

I was immediately empowered to start managing my financial responsibilities, supporting my church, and…improving my finances every month thereafter. 

Many years later, I heard Dave Ramsey say, “Money is for giving, saving and spending.” 

Those words helped me to connect the dots. Committing to a financial plan — inspired by a commitment to give — not only cleaned up my money matters, but it also laid a foundation for financial security. 

Giving is wise stewardship, and this does not just apply to those who attend church, but all aspects of community. 

COVID-19 has decimated our economy, but we still are the greatest economy in the world. While many of our nation’s citizens are struggling, many are not. Early on in this crisis, naturally, I started thinking about canceling the services that I cannot use because of social distancing. For nearly a decade, I’ve paid a considerable amount of money every month for my children to do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. My family attends the Honor Roll Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy in Santa Clarita, with Professor Bruno Antunes. 

In 2011, Professor Antunes was one of the top-ranked Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighters in the world. He started training adults and kids, to help finance his competitive career. However, the professor would soon discover a greater passion: training future champions. Professor Bruno has since trained and created some of the best young fighters in the sport; but more importantly to me as a father, than competitive success, are the attributes of respect, character and kindness the professor instills in his students, with love. Professor Bruno Antunes is a man of great character. 

The professor only wants adults and children participating who truly want to be there. And only the students who deserve to advance in rank are ever promoted. 

Nine years after arriving to Santa Clarita, as just a hired trainer for a school, he’s since created one of the most respected Brazilian Jiu Jitsu schools in the country. 

In 2011, Professor Bruno immigrated to the U.S., alone! Now he and his wife and two young boys are living the American dream, which he fought so hard to accomplish. I am honored to continue investing in Professor Bruno and his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school through this crisis, so that he will still be there for my kids, when it is safe to return. 

Unlike with taxes, giving allows people the freedom to invest their money in the things they want to support and see continue into their future. 

Giving permits citizens collective agency to shape and build their own communities. Giving is not only wise personal stewardship, but giving is investing in the future, and is especially important in times of crisis, like COVID-19.

Duane Smith

Agua Dulce

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