I’m in a moral dilemma that is slowly killing me inside. I guess I’ll just say it, though it makes me nauseous to admit this: I need to take a “charity break.” Rather, a break from giving money to charities.
Overnight, like so many others, I went from being a hardworking and paid writer, journalist, author, executive editor of a website, consultant, parenting and social media expert, and speaker, who also gave to charities, to feeling like a charity case myself.
Not that long ago, I was just about to buy seats for a hugely important fundraising event, where tables can go for $60,000, to suddenly wondering how long I can live with what’s in my bank account. And I was sad but also relieved, not only because who wants to be at a fundraising event with 1500 people, but also because I suddenly can’t really afford to attend this wonderful and important night, which relies on monetary donations.
I can almost feel you squirm, as I am squirming too, conversations around money matters are probably the most challenging and awkward topics to discuss with others, even with close friends and spouses, more so, I think, than talking about politics.
I already know, thank you, I’m better off than so many others (“Oh, you had to fire your gardener? Poor you…!”) I will defend myself, before anyone attacks, even though I know I don’t have to, because I’ve worked hard for the money I saved, for years, while I happily gave to numerous charities, diligently, each month, also, for years. Now it’s ME who has no idea when I’ll have any cash flow coming in and the thought that I may have to call these charities, when they need us more than ever, and tell them the truth makes me feel sick.
Just like that, the world turned upside down. I have no idea what day it is anymore, but I do know that within 72 hours, I lost five – FIVE – paying gigs, in a shorter amount of time than I spent in the hospital after having two C-Sections!
By the time the last of my “we need to talk” call came, I actually spoke first saying, “Let me guess? You’re about to tell me I ‘temporarily’ no longer have a gig?’” before he even had a chance to say “Hello.” And we actually laughed!
Never in my entire life have I ever heard the word, “temporarily” as much as I did in that 72-hour firing spree! After “temporarily” losing 5 paying gigs in 72 hours, it truly did feel like I was at a shooting range, that I was the target, and someone kept shooting bullets at me.
Also, between these calls, I was just in the middle of ordering my son a new bike. After the last paying gig I lost, I found myself suddenly wondering if I should really be buying my kid a new bike, at this time, but I did. Every kid should have a bike.
And then, after the shock wore off, I suddenly had both an “essential” and “non-essential list” running through my head. Gardener? Non-Essential. Personal Trainer? Non-essential. Therapist? Meh. Essential but also non-essential. And, sadly, “Charity,” I found, was also now leaning more towards being on the “non-essential” list. Which is why I need a break from giving to charity. And that makes me mad and sad.
There are many others in my position, who won’t speak out about this, but they too are finding themselves having to choose, or at least the thought has popped into their heads, between worry about their own family financial needs and donating or giving to the countless of charities who still need our help, now more than ever. (That guy driving that Ferrari? Guess what? He’s probably broke now too.)
I’d be delusional to open my portfolio statements arriving in my mailbox. So I don’t. Because I know it’s bad. I know it’s really, really bad. But you know what else I get in the mail, aside from these, “I-Know-I-Just-Lost 30-Per-Cent-Of-Everything-I’ve Worked-For-for-my-Entire Life” portfolio statements? A lot of communications from charities that I have been donating to, not just for months, but for years.
One day last week, there were FIVE charitable organizations, or non-profit organizations, asking me for more money, ranging from those who help children who happen to have disabilities, to those who have eating disorders.
“If you can save someone’s life would you?” one of the envelopes read. Of course I would love to save someone’s life!
But, at the same time, I also need to make sure my own family is fed and that I can pay my utility bills. Another envelope screamed out, “We will match dollar for dollar!” Of course I’d like you to match dollar for dollar but, now, I need that $50. It pains me – I almost feel like I’m having a heart attack – to think that I’ll most likely have to call these places and put “temporary” holds on donations, because I may need that money for me and my children.
Also, I can’t count the number of e-mails from charities that begin with, “Dear Rebecca, as a loyal supporter of the (Blank) society,” with an update with what they are doing, always ending with, “This is where you come in. We would be so grateful for your support of…Please make a donation and a message of support to the folks in our communities that need us the most right now. Thank you for your on-going support.”
I think I received about 12 of those emails last week, which made me feel incredibly guilty since I know, “Our front-line staff are playing an essential role in providing life-saving care. Support our Champions of Care. Donate Now.” But what about my children? Why am I feeling guilty about hiring tutors for my daughter, when front line workers are risking their lives?
And it makes me cry and scream.
I know I’m far from a charity case, in the literal sense, but truly, for the first time in my life, I do feel like a charity case, only because I can no longer give to charity. I’m a jobless single mother of a teenager and a 7-year-old, like so many others, with no income coming in. Yes, I can survive, and maybe on a different level than many.
But I do think now is the time for the very wealthy to step up even more. And they should be recognized for it. Sometimes, in an old Jewish tradition, I would make anonymous donations, the thought behind it being you’re giving to give and not be recognized, while also minimizing the potential embarrassment of those in need.
I think it’s sweet, but I also think it’s an outdated concept.
Now, I think of it like I’m being benched because I’m not playing well on a sports team and someone else needs to fill in for me, while I’m on a “temporary” charity break. If you have the means to be generous, as I had been historically, please let us know that you’ve donated, and how much, because I believe it will have a ripple effect, and frankly, you should be recognized.
We want to thank you. If Taylor Swift donates, for example, numerous other multi-millionaire musicians follow suit. So speak up about your donations. Let us thank you!
In this new normal, I do believe, that while the paying gigs I’ve lost may never come back, my charity break is truly only temporary.