In recent years when contemplating the proverbial question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” the answer has always been “Philanthropist”. Now, that’s a tall order for someone who seems to struggle to meet basic needs from time to time.
Philanthropy couldn’t have been farther from my mind than some as-yet-undiscovered-galaxy this past January when I found myself at a financial bump in the road.
Self-employed for many years, I was familiar with the fits and starts of cash flow. This time was different. The work that had been projected to begin on several projects was suddenly pushed back to February and beyond. Even if new work was to show up, in my line of work, the substantial payday for me comes at the conclusion of the project.
So there I was, stuck without a “cash cushion”. And then I got sick with the flu. Bad-sick. 14 days of it. I’m sure the financial stress added to what might had been a 24-hour bug to me normally. Part of me just wanted to sleep forever.
It is said that when all options, begging and pleading are exhausted, surrender occurs.
It was in the midst of a 103 degree fever, around 3am one night, when I first heard the voice – just as loud as if someone was at the side of my bed, speaking into my ear: “Ask your Facebook friends for $5.00 each. You have 591 friends. That’s $2955 – more than enough for rent and car payment for February.”
It kept on all night, calculating how many people at a minimum could give and meet my basic need of $1700.00. All night long this continued, and I was convinced - until I began to feel better.
In feeling better my pride and ego took back the control. No WAY was I going to humiliate myself in front of friends I’ve known all my life, friends with whom I attend church, BUSINESS associates, strangers! What would they SAY about me?! NO WAY!!!
A week went by and “surprise”! I still had no money coming in. With no option in sight I kicked my ego and his best buddy, Pride, to the curb and finally and completely surrendered. I composed a heartfelt Facebook post, asking whoever read it for $5.00. Further encouragement from a couple of close friends led me to send private emails to my friends’ list. This email went out to about 150 on my list before I became frustrated with the “new” Facebook format and I gave up sending to anyone else.
I was not prepared for what happened next! Within minutes of the initial post I received $100.00 from a single friend. $5, $10, $20 donations came flooding in through PayPal. I watched in amazement as people I wasn’t particularly close to immediately responded. Some had far less than I had. One was living out of his car!
2 days later as the money continued to come through PayPal, I went to the mailbox. It was full of handwritten envelopes – full of love and generosity. One, from a childhood friend that I haven’t seen in over 30 years, who had emailed me, saying she would send ‘what she could’, contained a check for $200! There were – and are - still are no human words for the feelings pulsing through my body as I opened each envelope and email. I raced as fast as I could to send individual thank you notes to each gifter, either through the mail or email.
And still, it did not stop there. A friend shared my post on his private group wall and I began receiving gifts from complete strangers. At my spiritual community, people hugged me while putting money in my hand or pocket. One woman, whom I met at a retreat the previous summer, was leaving one Sunday service while I was heading to the next when she spotted me, $20 bill in hand. She said she knew she would run into me and hugged me and gave me the bill.
Within a couple of days my immediate needs were met and I posted again on Facebook, thanking my friends for such assistance. “All needs met and exceeded!” and still the money came. At first I thought about telling people to stop and then the voice returned saying, “Don’t deny them their blessing in being part of this.” I know how true a statement that is: one of the greatest pleasures in my life is being able to give and it is truly one of the greatest gifts we receive at the same time! You get to KEEP what you GIVE AWAY.
(I think it was at about this time that I starting feeling like I was part of a bigger, God-Experiment. Like I was the tiny rat in the maze and whatever findings were discovered here would be used for something bigger.)
In the end, my beloved friends, spiritual family and Facebook friends – old and new - supported me in such a way that I was lifted out of the frightening place of eviction and repossession. But more importantly, I felt loved, not by just these people reaching out to me but by this big ol’ friendly and benevolent Universe! I am not particularly happy that this lesson/blessing came in the form of money, but this is something I continue to delve into in my spiritual practice. It’s obviously an area where there is much room for growth!
In these times we are living there are many experiencing temporary challenges of this nature. Since the time of my initial posting, I’ve had 5 people follow my lead and make similar requests for themselves and loved ones. As promised in my post, I did the same for those who gave to me – and now even to those who did not. Giving and receiving are part of the same circuit. I intend to keep than connection of good flowing, knowing there truly is enough for everyone!
And I would be remiss if I did not mention the feedback received from some who gave and others who just observed, saying this experience renewed their faith in humanity or gave them courage to speak up in areas of their own lives. Like I said….much bigger than just my experience.
Just after my post my spiritual leader instructed the congregation to “take care of each other”. How do we do that, when many have so little?
I was told by one friend that I "could not go back to that well" once I had put out my request. But go back I will! Just this time, it will be for someone else. I believe one of the answers to this question is through micro-giving - exactly what I experienced: many people giving a little to help a lot. Grass-roots philanthropy. The ideas are bubbling up.
Maybe one need not be a millionaire to be a philanthropist?
Til next time,
hey! I am still getting used to the idea! J