I’m 30 years old. As of last Thursday. Most of my life has happened in my last 30 years and nine months (Thanks Mom!) traveling around the Sun, and I’ve learned a few things, but one message has been nagging me the last month or two.
The life-changing experience.
I gave a bunch of money to Haiti back in January, and I’ve been sort of quiet since then. If I could have raised money and awareness for Partners in Health while staying out of the spotlight, I would have, but hey–folks like a “personal interest” story, and I figured any discomfort I felt in front of cameras was nothing compared to what the earthquake victims were suffering. I may be good at giving a presentation in front of a crowd, but being blind-sided by “thank you”s in restrooms and restaurants makes me feel weird. But I overcame the squidgy feelings to encourage folks to keep spreading the word about PIH and the people of Haiti, no matter where I was. Because that’s what you do when the message is important.
As soon as I announced the fundraiser, the immediate reaction from friends and family, beside disbelief, was worry. “Wait, wait, wait. That wasn’t *all* your savings, was it?” Or even worse (but adorable), when the earthquake happened in Chile, my niece Tori expressed her worry to her mom, afraid that I’d give away *all* of my money and have nothing left. After my sister reassured her that other nice people would help take care of the folks in Chile, Tori felt better. But sure enough, right after singing me her adorable rendition of Happy Birthday over the phone, she quickly asked, “DO YOU HAVE ANY MONEY LEFT, UNCLE CLIFF?”
Yes, sweetheart, I still have money. I also now have hope, faith, and joy at the generosity of my fellow human beings.
The nagging question…
After it was all over, and things quieted back down for me (if not for the people in Haiti), I thought about the experience I had. I figured out why people were so concerned when I told them my plan. I realized that the money I donated represented something to people. For those that worried for me, my money represented Security. What happened to my Security? Years of toil and hard work, gone to someone else. That’s money that I can’t use to buy a car, a house, or a TV. It’s money that I can’t spend on emergency medical bills, funeral expenses, or bail. If things get bad, I don’t have that money to fall back on.
I have plenty of security. People are my security. My body and brain won’t last forever, but the love of my friends and family will. So if I get in an accident, get sick, or any number of other things, I know that I’ll be well taken care of, no matter what happens. Can I say that same thing for the people of Haiti? No. They have nothing. And when I mean they have nothing, I’m not saying “they don’t have TV and drive-through burgers,” I mean, they have nothing. I’ve seen pictures of children with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Parents gone. Family sick or dead. In desperate need of food, shelter, and medicine. That, my friends, is a lack of Security.
So yeah, I don’t regret my donation one bit. Since I live rather cheaply and save most of my paycheck, I should be able to put all $10,000 back in the bank in a little over two years. Two years for me, but a lifetime to families who would have died otherwise.
The take-home message:
We should all think about our security in the larger picture.
In the news and in friends’ lives, I’ve seen bank after bank, company after company fail due to corruption. I’ve seen folks’ money–built up over years of hard labor–evaporate overnight. I may have all the savings and retirement plans and tax-sheltered this-and-thats that I can get, but I still don’t put my trust in them, or in the system. I put my trust and energy into loving and serving the people around me. I know that they would sooner die than forsake my trust; I can’t say that about my bank.