Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Virtue Ethics: An Ethical Development Program for High School Youth

Activity 1: Story - The Other Half

Part of Virtue Ethics

Activity time: 10 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Read the story and prepare to present it.
  • Optional: Copy the story for all participants.

Description of Activity

Youth hear and discuss a true story about a family’s generosity.

Introduce the story by saying it is true. Tell or read the story, then discuss it with these questions:

  • The Salwen family’s generosity amounted to one million dollars, half the value of their mansion. Did they sacrifice to give such a large sum of money, and, if so, what did they sacrifice?
  • What else did the Salwens give besides money?
  • What did they gain by giving?

Tell the group The Power of Half (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010) is a book written by the father and daughter. The dad tells the story, interspersed with suggestions from Hannah on ways readers can engage with this work. One suggestion is to consider what can you give away half of. For the Salwens, it was a house. Hannah gives a couple of suggestions, including giving away half your clothes to a second-hand shop. Ask:

  • Could you do this? Which half would you give away?
  • What other suggestions do you have for resources you might cut in half and then give half away?


This experiment caused the Salwens to view generosity in a new way. Though they were already donating to charities and helping out in soup kitchens, they decided it was not enough. How do you know when you are giving enough to make the world better?