Here is a disturbing fact to put things into perspective. The amount of times I’ve seen a cause I supported in theory–like kickstarting a Veronica Mars movie, or, more importantly, a battered woman’s safe-house–and yet offered no financial support, despite the considerable padding a lifetime of stingy saving has afforded me, vastly outnumbers the amount of jobs (and boys) that have rejected me so far. Another fact: most of the organizations I enjoy, such as public television, radio, and local historical societies, offer their services on “suggested donation” basis, which I often ignore or shortchange. $1 is kind of like $5, right? I love these things; I value them. I would even go so far as to say I couldn’t live without them. So why, when it comes down to it, can I not bring myself to support them monetarily?
An honest answer really has to do with uncertainty. When I get scared, I don’t run. I curl into a ball, stick my head in the sand, and cling as tightly as possible to things “the way they are now.” That includes everything from personal relationships to financial stability. I’m twenty two. I am single and have never had a boyfriend. I work three part-time jobs, two of which are more free-lance than anything else, and I barely scrape together a living wage. Every exchange with a stranger could be the first time I speak to my soulmate. Every time I check my e-mail, there is the potential that I will suddenly find myself gainfully employed…or not. The point is, I never know. So, partly, I cling to my capital because, if there is anything for sure in this world, it is that I will need money to keep living in it.
But, at the same time, there is a privilege inherent in my potential poverty. I am not starving. I am not sick. I am not homeless, and I am certainly not without a strong safety net of friends and family. If things get tough, I can ask my parents to help out with groceries. When I visit home, they refill my gas tank. So, where there is uncertainty, I do know one thing for certain: it could be 100% worse.
Bringing myself back to the topic of this post, last Saturday I mailed a check amounting to $51.27 to Oberlin Community Services, officially ending my Lenten fast. My plan was to try viewing my world more positively, but, knowing that I would fail, starting a complaint jar into which I would drop $0.25 every time I tore down myself or my situation. What I wanted was a way to feel good even in my failure. Like, sure, I was a Negative Nancy all month (and, let’s face it, March was not my best), but I can still help build my community. I tried being positive, but what I learned, ultimately, was how to give.
Mailing that check was probably one of the more difficult things I’ve done. One one hand, I was embarrassed and all too aware that it had taken a religious ritual to motivate me to be a better human. I was ashamed that $51.27 was all I could give. And then there was that awful, guilty moment where I actually contemplated dumping the jar into my other jar, which has about $120 raised for my Irish dancing. But here’s the thing. I didn’t. I didn’t keep the money, and I didn’t end up sending it because I was looking for the approval of God. I sent it because that was, religion or not, the kind, committed, good, and only thing to do. I also didn’t feel so bad that I couldn’t give more. When you do the math, $51.27 / 40 = $1.28 per day ~=~ 5 complaints per day. That’s radical for me. In the end, I get to be proud of myself for beginning to improve my outlook, and also to give back to my community!
So, while this post is titled “The things I do for Jesus,” I’m really only using that to quote one of my favorite movies. (Anyone know the title?) My personal beliefs may have set the time frame in which I entered a period of self-reflection and personal growth (and also helped me find strength in darker moments), but the ultimate motivation was humanity. There are a lot of things I care about, and while I have the means, I might as well make an effort to make this planet a more livable, accessible space for everyone. What’s more important, after all? One more whiskey sour at the bar, or ensuring that my fellow people are happy, safe, warm, healthy, and have all the opportunities I had to learn and explore?