Home is Where Your Story Begins

January 22, 2012

Not a Rant but a Plea

Filed under: Focusing on Others,Life — my3daughters @ 10:09 pm

Apparently some people are very uncomfortable with the fact that I do not even attempt to hide my financial struggles.  You can’t “catch” poverty just by being around me.  And I’m not trying to whine or get handouts for myself or my children.  If you are truly my friend, you would understand this because you would understand me.  Your comfort, or lack of, is not my concern.  My concern is the shortage of compassion for people in situations similar to mine.

I am very involved in our Band Booster program.  I don’t do it for myself; I do it for the kids.  I love my band kids, past and present.  I want them to be able to have the best band experience they can.  Some of my fondest memories from high school are from band (yes I can really remember back that far).  I want to give these kids the same type of positive memories.

Band isn’t free, and with budget cuts from the state and the school district, we can’t even say it’s cheaper than say football or cheerleading.  Our Band Booster program works hard to make the program as affordable and accessible to as many students as possible.  We provide a number of fundraisers (only one of which is required) to help parents raise money to offset the costs of participating in band.  It’s possible to pay for everything—from lessons to reeds to uniforms—without any of it coming out of pocket.  Don’t believe me?  I have a friend you can talk to who will prove me right.  She has paid for everything for her child, including Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, by fundraising.

The economy is bad everywhere but really bad here in the state of Michigan.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Website, the unemployment rate in Michigan in November 2011 was 9.8%.  Nevada (13%), California (11.3%), Mississippi (10.5%), Rhode Island (10.5%), Florida (10%), Illinois (10%), North Carolina (10%), Georgia (9.9%), and South Carolina (9.9%) were higher but Michigan is still in the top 10 states with the highest unemployment. (November 2011 was the newest information to be had)

Unfortunately this means that families are cutting back on their spending.  And essentials such has housing, heat and food take precedence over activities such as band, sports, dance, etc.  If we don’t actively work to both keep costs down and give parents ways to raise the money, not everyone is going to be able to participate in these programs.  We have to be conscience of adding expenses, especially when these costs are for things not essential to the program.  Yes, these “extras” are nice but they aren’t crucial.  These “extras” need to be optional, not mandatory.  And when they are optional, parents need to feel free to opt no.  Mention it once and be done with it.  Don’t keep asking, sending “reminders” to pay if you can.  If we could, if we wanted to, we would have done so in the first place.

So here I am, a very vocal parent, putting my pride aside and going “hey, look, I’m broke.  I can’t afford that.  Do we seriously need that?  I’m already paying to play.  What’s with all the additional costs?”  This has resulted in gentle rebukes from friends telling me I talk about my situation too much.  Ouch, that hurts.  You say you are my friend yet you think I’m doing this for some selfish reason.

I’ve also had angry rants posted on Facebook and received nasty emails and text messages.  I’ve been told I’m immature, crazy and bipolar.  I’ve been told to shut up or I’ll regret it.  I’ve been cursed up one side and down the other and called a witch on a broom (well, actually the other word but I won’t use that here).  I’ve had it thrown in my face that I expect handouts, that I don’t pay my children’s dues and that everyone else has to carry me.  These actions don’t hurt but they do make me angry.  I do pay my children’s dues and if I’m going to be late, I let the appropriate people know.  I have NEVER asked for a handout for my children and have ALWAYS paid their way—for the mandatory costs and any of the optional items I am able to afford.  Not only do I not expect everyone else to carry me, I do a heck of a lot more than most people realize.  I do what I do for the program behind the scenes.  You may not realize I am doing it but you’d notice if I wasn’t doing it.  And trust me, I’m not the only one.  There’s a lot of hard work going on that you are not aware of when you come to see your child perform.  For every person up front gathering kudos and thanks, you have many more who never get recognition.  We don’t do it for the recognition.

I’m not going to stop being vocal about my situation.  I was raised to be considerate and caring about other people.  I was taught to look at things from another person’s point of view and not just my own.  And I was told that God puts us is tough situations, not only to test us and help us to grow, but so that we can honestly say “I understand.”  I’m not going to hide the situation God has put me in as if I’m embarrassed about it.  I’m going to use it to glorify Him and to help others.  I know what it’s like to feel as if you are completely alone.  I don’t want others to feel that way.

Let me explain one more thing—this is not a rant about our Band Boosters, a group I respect greatly.  I just use them as an example because, even though everyone intends the best, you get a few people who can’t see the big picture.  I have seen this happen in sports teams, dance teams, even youth groups.  The people responsible for making the decisions make them based on their income, not even considering what others might be able to afford.  And since most families with low incomes have both parents working (sometimes more than one job) or are single parent families (still sometimes with more than one job), those with larger incomes end up being the ones in charge.  They’re the ones who have the time and the energy to volunteer.  This is not a rant against those people either.  This is a plea to them to have compassion, to look beyond themselves and see as others see.  I know this is possible because I observe it daily in the lives of many outstanding parent volunteers.  Unfortunately, it’s the self-centered minority who stand out.

So if you ever find yourself in the position of making a decision on the cost of something for a group, take time to consider those you are representing.  It may be a little more work, take a little more effort, but it can be done.

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