Ever since the advent of GoFundMe, I have seen some stuff on there that made me roll my eyes so hard I almost fell backwards in my chair. Sometimes, the Go Fund Me pages I see remind me of the cheerleading team standing on the street corner in “Oh HELL no you are not wearing a skirt THAT short out of MY house” outfits begging for money to help them “Get to the finals in X state!”
The morning after my husband died, I was sitting in my kitchen, checking my bank balance. I had exactly SIXTY-TWO dollars. I was stunned, freaked out, terrified and since my husband died on Sunday, the pay week ended on Tuesday, so I knew I had a three day check coming and then…nothing. I was a stay at home mom with two Autistic children, aged 6 and 13. I’d worked all my life as a secretary, a waitress while in college and at the time, most recently, as an advocate for the disabled. This was a new kind of terrified.
I couldn’t tell you if Go Fund Me even existed back then to be honest. I was still reeling from burying my mother and processing that my father was dying from cancer, to figuring out how to fund a funeral for my husband with no life insurance. (We were still in that, “We’re still young(ish) and we need to look into life insurance because it’s really important!” part of the conversation.) (Side note: BUY IT NOW)
At the time, a friend worked in a local bank and she and another friend opened up a bank account for people to donate. I had friends at my husband’s workplace showing up with food and food store gift certificates. There were many gifts dropped off and gift cards. My husband died four days before Thanksgiving and the holidays were close enough. Many people donated to the bank account and it allowed me to literally survive until I could get to Social Security a month later and apply for survivor benefits.
Now comes my angry, opinionated self. No one ever donated money to me when my car broke down or when I had to leave college because I ran out of money and couldn’t work full time, go to school full time and be a single mom. I did what I could. I kept the job and dropped out of college (loans were not the way I wanted to go and I’d maxed out my grants). I didn’t ask for free money when my engine block cracked and my car was done for. I saved up, took the bus and bought a car WITH MY OWN MONEY.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate the site or think that no one should ever set up a Go Fund Me. I did once. I was struggling with the school system and couldn’t afford the hourly rate for the legal assistance I needed. I had saved up some of it. I was told the maximum out of pocket would not exceed $1000. So, I thought I would give it a shot. When I saw the sheer magnitude of how many pages there were and that you basically had to flood your friend’s and/or family’s feed with requests to post and share the site, I couldn’t go through it. I posted it once on my page and I felt awful. I kept saying to myself, “Why should I ask for free money to deal with my issue?” I wound up taking it down and found another way to circumvent the need for legal help.
I think that some of the stories on the site that I’ve seen are very sad. No one wants to hear of a family losing the only breadwinner or children who have lost their home to fire. The thought process behind the site is wonderful and allows the community at large to pick and choose what they and if they would like to contribute to an individual cause. Many people want to be charitable, but distrust some of the larger charities or want to be more local and focused with their donations. I think in that aspect, it’s a wonderful idea.
When I think back to that time when I was losing everyone, what warmed me the most was waking up in the morning and finding my driveway shoveled and my car cleaned off. No one would own up to it and just smiled at me. The doorbell would ring and a neighbor would be holding a casserole or a basket of muffins and donuts for me and the kids. My son’s home assistant showing up one night with a truckload of gifts and things to make their Christmas a little brighter through all the dark times. The tears, the smiles. Making my mortgage payment that December 1st, knowing I was going to be alright. The personal interaction and individual things people did really made me feel loved and cared about.
I love all the ways that I can keep in touch with people, I really do. However, with the advent of things like Go Fund Me, we are taking out the personal way that we help one another. When was the last time you physically went to visit a sick friend? So, while I think it serves a purpose, we need to remember that we are more than just page views and clicks. We need to ring the doorbells, bake the pies and put the human back into interaction.