Have you ever received charitable giving? I have. Due to circumstances beyond my control, an injury disabled me a few years ago. My family suffered, I suffered, and others suffered either directly or indirectly.
I have given much hard-earned coin over the years to charities, churches, and other well-meaning organizations. This came easily to me and felt right. Helping your fellow humans out just makes good sense to me. It also makes everyone feel good, or at least I thought so.
Although I found it easy to give to others when I could, when it came time to receive similar help, the fabric of the story changed a great deal. The ‘feel good’ emotion when handing over aid to someone else became replaced with a sense of guilt and shame. Now I was on the ‘business end’ of the giving and it was horrible.
Due to multiple personal disasters, I found my family in need of some much-needed charitable giving. Naturally, we became the focus of well-meaning friends, families, and local organizations. When you stand in front of someone collecting donations before some big box store, putting money into a collection container of some sort just comes naturally to most of us. Standing in my living room receiving money from someone did not have the same feel.
Another well-meaning friend of the family set up a trust fund for us. Funds began to pour in at an astonishing rate. We became paralyzed by it. We felt bad every time we spent any of the money on anything. I felt awful. Why did I have to take money from someone else? What was I supposed to spend it on? Could I pay rent, food, or buy a needed appliance?
The Community Reached Out To Us
One day not long after this ordeal began, my wife spoke to a friend about it and the couple invited us to dinner. We accepted. Sitting at the table and eating food we could not afford was a lightning strike to our emotions. They listened to us talk about the two ordeals we suffered through at that time. Finally, after a long pause, he spoke.
I can only paraphrase the conversation now, since a few years have passed and my memory of the night faded a bit, but the gist of the conversation went something like “You guys should not feel guilty using the money in the trust fund. It’s there to help you through this time. If you need to pay your light bill then pay it. If you need a new washing machine, buy it. If you need to buy some groceries, then get them. If you need it then get it.”
My first response to this? “What if we run out of money? What if we used it all and still have these huge medical expenses? Shouldn’t we just use the money to only pay medical bills?” He hit me like a major league baseball player at bat, “Look how much money poured in from the community. You didn’t even ask for it. They just give and give. Now imagine that we actually ask a few folks for donations. Don’t you think these folks want to help? They love you guys and want to help. They love to help. If the well runs dry, we will ask for more.”
A Valuable Lesson Learned
I sat stunned. It never occurred to me. I had thought this money was strictly for medical expenses. Then it really dawned on me: Everything is a medical expense when you are down, sick, or injured. The rent, lights, groceries, car payment, fuel, insurance, clothes; every single expense then becomes a medical necessity.
It was still painful every time we used money from that trust fund. We still felt a little twinge of guilt, but we used that money. We persevered and the path we traveled from then on became all the smoother by many people giving of time, money, and other help. When the chips were down the community chipped in and we carried on. Looking back on the experience now, I feel a little foolish that someone had to point out the painfully obvious.