It’s easy to see how money corrupts. From oil companies that destroy the planet to mega-million executives who exploit their workers in order to gain a bigger profit for themselves. There are endless stories of greed and pain.
And some of the stories are our own.
When my father unexpectedly cut me off in the middle of college, I learned firsthand that money can be used as a weapon.
In fact, I bet none of us would struggle to find instances of greed, fraud and destruction.
Unfortunately, it often feels more difficult to find acts of kindness.
In the face of economic injustice and destruction, it’s easy to feel powerless. In fact, it’s reassuring to feel like the problems are too big to be solved by a single person (a person like me or you) because then we are off the hook.
We are free to tune out and have other people deal with the mess. Throwing our hands up in despair while cinching our wallets in order to protect our own people is an understandable response.
In fact, it’s been my response. After experiencing extreme hardship in college, I felt myself contract. After a taste of cruelty and poverty, my world shrunk. All that mattered was survival and the only person I felt I could trust was myself. Even after I got a full-time job and was safely middle class, I continued to hoard money and be stingy with others…and myself.
But that response—retreating into myself—is the easy way out. It’s easy cling to the past and replay the hardships we’ve endured on a never-ending loop.
It’s easy to care for the people we already love.
It’s easy to hold onto hate and fear.
It’s easy to retreat.
But it’s hard to move forward and let go of the past.
It’s hard to be generous with strangers.
It’s hard to have hope when there’s darkness.
It’s hard to forgive.
Those things are hard because they matter. Doing the hard work is how we create change.
And more importantly, it’s how we can reclaim money as a weapon for good instead of evil.
I signed up for the #GivingCards Project through the Rockstar Community Fund last month and I was surprised by what happened.
The task was simple: give away the $20 Visa gift card that was given to me (and the other participants).
But what resulted from the project was a complex inner journey that I’m slightly embarrassed to talk about.
We were asked to share what we did with the money in the forums, and this is what I wrote:
After some deliberating, I decided to use $5 to give a holiday card and Starbucks gift card to the women who cleans our building at work. She greets us every morning with a giant smile.
But on my way to work that morning, I passed a homeless man on the side of the road. He was snuggled with his dog and in that moment, I decided to do a u-turn and give him the card and gift card instead. When I handed it to him through the window, he got a huge smile on his face and said “God bless.”
While I waited at the red light, I watched him start to walk to the Starbucks on the corner. It’s funny how things work out. (I’m still planning to surprise the woman in our building with a gift card in the new year though!)
With the other $15, I bought a wool flannel to donate to our church’s clothing drive. The church is located across the street from a giant San Diego park that houses a large amount of homeless people. I donated the sweater on Christmas Eve.
It’s hard for me to talk about, but the truth is that I haven’t been as generous as I would have liked. I lived uncomfortably close to the poverty line from 2013-2015 while finishing my college degree and I think that the feelings of fear, pain and scarcity continued to haunt me this year.
I still remember what it’s like to ashamedly take food from a food pantry and survive on pasta for months and become a shell of the person I was. Reconciling those experiences with my middle class childhood and current middle class adulthood are difficult, but the Giving Card reminded me that I don’t want to live in the past. I want to move into 2017 with generosity in my heart and help people who are experiencing hardships in whatever way I can. Thank you for the reminder, Rockstar <3
The Rockstar Community Fund is open to everyone who wants to be involved. From #GivingCards to the amazing #DebtDrop, there are SO MANY wonderful ways to do good this year and reclaim money as a weapon for good.
I hope to see you in the forums <3