Saturday, May 24, 2014

Playing on the Kindness of Strangers?

It seems that times are always bad, that there is always a call from the March of Dimes or the American Cancer Society, jars out at Mom and Pop markets collecting money for local residents in crisis, and the bi-annual trip to donate clothes to the Salvation Army.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the internet has pervaded this field.

My friend Denise, who is quite possibly my first writing fan and most definitely one of my BFFs, will at times suggest ideas for me to write about.  In fact, she even wrote a post as a guest blogger for me about science and stuff because she's a smart lady.

I got this from her via Facebook a few days ago:
Katie,
Man, I wish I could write like you (EDITOR'S NOTE: SHE REALLY DID START WITH THIS).  I think your writing every day and my reading every day is making me think about things and ask questions (always was that way but I had learned to kind of shut it off- unless they were scientific what do you do with them).  So anyways- I joined an online support group for my lung problems- long story short someone posted a link to one of those personal sites requesting money- which I felt was kind of inappropriate.  I kind of wondered after this if that was uncharitable of me.  She did have a sad story- but most of the people on that site have it just as bad if not worse.  That being said- As a general rule I only donate money to what I consider legitimate sources but I give tons every year in new clothes, coats, hats, mittens, baby supplies, christmas gifts, food drives, etc.  I wondered if this was really not right.  I wonder what your readers would think?

Personally, I am rock solid in the area of giving (time, energy, Emily's entire Abercrombie and Fitch wardrobe when she decided to stop being a Material Girl), but like Denise I am uneasy about money, especially where the internet is involved.

I have given money twice via the internet.  I do not regret either donation, and I should note that they are very small.

One was for a former schoolmate who had a baby at 25 weeks pregnant.  I had given birth to Gabrielle shortly before this little peanut was born, and I know this girl has worked incredibly hard and had to overcome some really rough times, and she couldn't even go to visit her baby every day because of both transportation and several other kids at home.  I gave a small monetary donation (very small), but the more I think of it, she probably would have been better off if I'd volunteered to babysit or something.

The other was a page made for the man who was like a third father to me, Kenneth P. Carroll.  I also eulogized him, so to speak, on this site.  Again, the monetary donation was a small one, but I felt it was worthwhile. After all, burial costs are huge, and nobody wants to think about things like cremation and coffins and steel to keep the worms out as long as possible, but they are real problems.  Ken deserves dignity in death, a place where those of us that love him could go visit with him for a bit, throw back a few red labels, and probably cry with the loss of a man so great.

Denise made a really interesting point, though.  Everyone has some sort of sob story, most of them completely legitimate.

Speaking for myself, I am out of work on maternity leave/extended medical leave due to complications, so my last paycheck was over three months ago.  A tire on my car needs to either be repaired or replace (which of course means two tires).  Ari is likely to be advanced in gymnastics, which is awesome but more money.  We're behind on the mortgage. Even though I'm out of work, we have to send Gabby to daycare two days a week to hold her full-time spot in the fall.  We're living creatively and eating a lot of pasta. Oh, and after wearing a size 8 for over three years, Ari decided to grow all of a sudden, so now we have to worry about getting her new clothes.  I'll just say thank God my ex-husband started paying child support during this time.  

Could I start one of those "Go Fund Me" pages? I bet I could. I am not choosing to be out of work, I am just not medically able to return.  I've got a pretty good sob story that is absolutely true if I chose to use it.  I am, by the way, kind of uncomfortable writing about this because a good friend of ours gathered from our Facebook posts that money was tight right around Christmas and sent a check, several of my former students made extremely generous offers, and so on.  I am not asking you to think about me in those terms.  We'll be fine in August when I can go back to work. La vita e bella.

Anyway, I think that there are many, many people in need, particularly the working middle class, which Jeff and I fall squarely into (when I'm working ... living on his paycheck with the number of dependents we have does, I believe, put us below the poverty line).  You can all probably think of many people that need a little financial boost.

But is asking for it on Facebook, other than in truly extreme situations (and use your own definition of that ... the fact that I donated money to Kori David's life and to Ken's headstone means they were extreme situations and worthwhile for me), a little tacky?

Yeah, probably.  It's not something I would ever do personally, though.

Because I'm with Denise on this.  Time, work, sewing, reading or playing the piano at a nursing home, casseroles to a family where the mom is in the hospital (or jail), that is all good, solid, and honest.  There is a need, you know what the need is, and you do what you can to fulfill it.  Asking for money over the internet, other than in extreme situations, is crass.

When I was going to college full-time as a single mother working three jobs, my parents would drive up with boxes full of food.  Ham and Coke and fresh fruit and vegetables and cheese and peanut butter and frozen soup and pasta sauce homemade by my mom and packages of chicken and hamburger and so on.  They figured out pretty quickly, you see, that I was not good with money.  Emily never went without, but there were days I didn't eat, and I'll tell you, Hamburger Helper without the meat is pretty crappy.

My parents were very wise.  If they gave me money, I might spend it on something other than food (not intentionally, of course, but out of mismanagement).  They donated food instead of money because they knew that it would be used for the intended purpose.

I think that's the bottom line, the nobleness of the intended purpose.

And I want to note that, while many sites claiming to be "collecting money for Cancer/Lupus/ Autism/Cerebral Palsy/name an ailment" are very shady.  As little as 5% might be going toward actual research, and a much higher percent is going to the CEO's bank account. Do research before you donate.

So yeah, I guess that's where I stand.  

What are your thoughts on donations?  

**And also, I am trying to build up a following for this blog.  If you like what you read here, please go to Facebook and give it a like.  I am working on getting money for my writing while I'm on medical leave, so popularizing this page could be your way of giving me a simple and easy donation ... unless, of course, you think what I write is crap.  Just figured I'd ask ;-)