No one likes to ask for money. It is a very humbling thing to come to your friends and family—let alone people you don’t know—and admit, “I cannot do this by myself.” However, life very rarely moves at the speed of our pride. Unfortunately, shit happens. Shit will always happen and it usually happens right when you least expect it. No matter how hard you plan, life will inevitably throw you that parabolic curve ball that will break the glass walls of your expectations, leaving you pick up the pieces. Some will be left to clean up the mess up alone (I have the utmost sympathy for these folks), but the fortunate among us will have loved ones who will help us bag the glass, dispose of it, get a new window, and install it. It is a humbling position for the window owner and a call to action for the community.
My wife and I recently had a broken window of our own with our puppy that brought the inevitability of need into stark relief. We are newly weds trying to get our lives together after a move and put down some roots, neither of which is free or even cheap. Consequently, our bank accounts look more like a restaurant tabs than a family savings. Unfortunately, shit still happens.
One Saturday we came home and our puppy Lemon was hobbling and not using one of his hind legs. My wife and I, not being trained vets, thought that we would hope for the best and take him to the vet if it didn’t get any better. It didn’t so we did. $500 later we had a set of x-rays, a referral to an orthopedic surgeon, and a much needed emergency surgery to schedule that would cost between $2,500–3,000. In tears we came home and mulled over our accounts and forthcoming paychecks to try to come up with the needed money to no avail. Reluctantly, we resorted to creating a gofundme. We were nervous and humbled to ask our friends and family for money but we faced a choice: protect our pride or ask for help. We chose the latter.
With literal tears in our eyes we set up the page hoping to raise a couple hundred dollars. We were prepared to wipe everything out and make do on ramen for a couple of weeks but were surprised when we visited the site the next day. In 24 hours we had raised a little over $2,200. Though it was not the full amount and WePay took another $100 it was still a tremendous blessing to have 2/3 of the cost knocked out in less than a day.
Through our joy we subsequently resolved ourselves to be more giving in the future. Both her and I have a lot of experience in mainline Christian Churches where we had always been encouraged to give in word but the deeds of the Church are not so easily followed. She and I have always had troubles with the costs entailed in maintaining charities and monolithic cathedrals and therefore don’t really feel comfortable giving to institutions and organizations. We have been more than willing to give to individuals and families in need but never thought about a way to systematize a way for folks to take care of each other without the bureaucracy and costs of institutions. Now we had the energy and impetus to figure one out. Then it dawned on us: we just did this!
As we pondered ways to be more giving in the future we realized that the answer was staring at us in the face. Our 21st century world is so connected that we can give to each other instantly with digital donation sites without the humiliation of having to ask several dozen people several dozen times. Add on to that the advent of social media and you can even illicit donations from strangers, if a story is dire and engaging enough.
The biggest inhibition to asking for help is the first step—asking. Our culture is so saturated by capital, entertainment, and the so-called “self-sufficiency” paradigm that we are encouraged to consume consume consume ourselves into debt and are ashamed if we do not have the means to provide for ourselves and our families when disaster strikes. However, there is a better way.
We can talk to each other and trust each other. We can be vocal and forthcoming with our loved ones that it is ok to ask for help. My wife and I have gotten there through this situation with our puppy. If our friends love us enough to be there for us then we are joyfully standing ready when they need help as well.
Would you ask for help if it were necessary? If not, I would ask you to consider this: the joy of empathy is not just for receiver, it is also for the giver. The joy of giving is a reward that we should not deny of those who stand ready to love us. If we do then we are doing them a disservice as well as ourselves. Love and let yourself be loved. When disaster strikes where will you be? Banking on your pride and self-sufficiency or standing with arms wide open waiting on those who love you to give you legs to stand? We choose love; how ‘bout you?
“Lean on me. When you’re not strong I’ll be your friend. I’ll help you carry on for it won’t be long ’til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on.”