Monday, November 13, 2006

Maybe 32 is when adulthood hits you squarely between the eyes. You’d think that after 10 years in the workforce, 8 years of marriage, two homes and a child, I’d be pretty comfortable in my role as grown up. But not so much. Apparently.

Maybe uncomfortable isn’t the word. But it does surprise me on a fairly regular basis that I’m the mommy. Or the decision maker. Or, in the case of the line of thinking that spawned this post, the would-be philanthropist.

It’s not like we never give money. We bleed silver and gold, so it’s fun to get all drunk at the annual scholarship auction for our alma matter and drop some cash. Plus season tickets. Plus contributing to the National Student Advertising Competition team, plus whatever else it takes to get our names in the annual report. (Oh come ON…that’s why the millionaires do it too. I know this to be true, I worked in Alumni Relations for a long time.) So we are familiar with tax deductible relationships.

But I have to say that my jaw dropped, and dropped hard, recently when a family member made a request for financial help. You have to give her some credit though. She laid it all out there. She and her husband quit their jobs and moved to the country to change the pace of their stressful lives. She is working part time, her husband full time. They are both volunteering quite a bit to get a new church up and running. Between paid and volunteer efforts, they don’t want to work more than 40 hours a week. That defeats the purpose of trying to build a peaceful and calm life. And they would like to buy a house. So they are looking for 100 people to support them at $25.00 a month.

Perhaps we are jaded. Grinchy even. I’m SO not writing a check. No way. I know that this was presented to us in a sort of “help us build the church” missionary type plea. But I’m not totally buying it. And I don’t think that makes us heartless heathens. Over lunch M was worrying about this being the present day equivalent of the beggar at the door. The door we just slammed shut. And I had to tell him that I felt confident in saying that this was not Jesus asking us for some hospitality. I guess maybe I’m a heartless heathen.

Hey, can you fundraise for that? There are probably a lot of good Christians out there who would be willing to part with some green in an effort to save my soul from the eternal fires of damnation.

I am seriously surprised at what a hot button issue this is for me. For the last 5 years my husband has worked a minimum or 50 hours a week. Usually it’s closer to 65 or 70. For two years, TWO YEARS, he worked every weekend just to keep his business up and running. And I’ve worked 40 hours a week during this time too. And then come home to run a household that includes a small person and a totally neurotic dog. For the first couple years of “start up mode” we could barely afford to buy groceries, much less make lifestyle choices that took us out of the rat race.

We had a lot of people who were kind to us during those early days of M’s self employment. My mom bought me clothes. My in-laws filled our freezer with deer and elk meat. Our friends invited us to their houses instead of going out. One friend took us out to dinner twice a month for over a year. And they never expected us to reciprocate. On good days these wonderful people provided us with a break and a little treat. On bad days they loaned us money for a couple of weeks so we could pay our mortgage. We know we didn’t do it alone, and we’re grateful for that help.

So why does this feel different to me? Maybe because I think people were willing to help us out because they saw how willing we were to help ourselves. We did odd jobs for our family members like painting houses and yard work. We had yard sales and sold stuff on ebay. Got rid of the cable, cell phones, and long distance. We ate Bambi for cryin’ out loud. M worked and worked and worked and worked to start his business. And I worked and worked and worked to support us while he did it. We never, not for one second, expected anyone else to be financially responsible for our chosen path.

It’s paying off. We’re not rich by any stretch of the imagination, but we’re more comfortable. Maybe that makes us seem rich to other people. I’m not apologetic about that. It’s our money. Not only did we earn it, we risked a lot to build a business. We still have a lot at stake.

I keep asking myself what conditions would have to be present for me to feel like writing a check to this person. And I keep landing right back where I started. If you make a choice to live a certain lifestyle, then you figure out how to support it. Which I guess is exactly what she’s doing. More power to her I guess. When all the neo-conservative right wingers get done licking their wounds (everywhere but here obviously) maybe they’ll need a new project. Hey…she should run for office.

Man I’m ranty today.


misanthropster said...

It's different because you and your husband did it on your own, without begging for help from people.

And the fact that they laid it out that they need $2500 a month from people...

Well, holy crap, that's almost as much as my husband and I make both working FULL TIME.

yeah. this burns my ass a little bit too.

They might want a less stressful lifestyle, but... they apparently still want to live in the same manner that they did when they were working full time? I don't fricken think so.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

You have no cause to feel even slightly guilty. They are dressing a desire to freeload off the labors of others in the garments of a religious calling that is calculated to make people open their wallets as automatically as Pavlov's dogs salivated.

How cynical and slimy of them. They should be ashamed. And they should grow up and assume responsibility for themselves and their chosen life style, as you and your husband have done.

Please let us know how their plan succeeds with other takers. Er, GIVERS.

Clover said...

Oh, good call. I'll update as I know more.

Glad y'all are on board with me. I feel sorta heartless, even though I KNOW I'm right.