Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnail Joan King Salwen was saving her last jars of hot pepper jelly, made using her homegrown red, yellow, green, habanero and jalapeno peppers, for an Academy Awards party later this month. But when Bill and Melinda Gates invited her to Seattle to talk about her family’s inspiring project, The Power of Half, Joan took one off the shelf to present as a hostess gift.

Joan’s daughter, Hannah, convinced the Salwen family to sell its grand Atlanta home, buy one half its size, and donate the proceeds to The Hunger Project. The Salwen family has helped 30,000 villagers in Ghana move from poverty to self-reliance and chronicled their experiences through their book, The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back. “We’re making a small difference in the world, but in doing so we grew much more connected to each other and raised our level of trust in one another,” 17-year-old Hannah told Natural Home last year.

As their project has caught the public’s attention and imagination, the Salwen family has traveled the country and the world to share how living more simply has made their life much richer. For Joan, presenting the last coveted jar of hot pepper jelly in a Ball jelly jar. “I love the jelly (mighty tasty),” Joan writes, “but I also love that canning our fall harvest epitomizes two concepts I have become more deeply attached to through The Power of Half: abundance and sharing. At harvest, we have more peppers than we can eat. That's abundance. Our hot/sweet condiment is the gift of our hands and hearts that we most enjoy lavishing on friends. That's sharing.”

Joan shared with Melinda how she grew the peppers, made the jelly in an annual ritual with an old friend and “distributes it to lucky recipients. “She was visibly pleased to have been included on our exclusive gift list,” she write. “I was joyous that my homegrown and made offering elicited such a response, and I felt rich indeed.”

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