On Giving Back

Do you also find it easier to give money than give time?

Photo credit: Enokson, CC BY 2.0.

Yesterday I wrote about Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes, ending the piece with an observation about how the adults in the story consistently supported the Fossil sisters:

What Children’s Literature Teaches Us About Money: Noel Streatfeild’s ‘Ballet Shoes’

The part that surprised me on the re-read was how much help the adults provided. I took it as a given, as a child, that if an English professor moved in to my house, of course that person would teach me Shakespeare. Now, I’m impressed — and kind of humbled — that the group of adults living in this house formed their own family and agreed to support each other and the three talented children living with them.

Which might be the part of the manual that I need to take with me into the next stage of my life. I’ve learned how to hustle, how to work for both art and money, and when to spend what I’ve saved. I still have a lot to learn about how to give back.

Billfolder Time.turner responded: “Awww Nicole I loved your last few sentences! I hope you tell us about your efforts to practice giving back — it’s one of the things in my life that I’m constantly trying to figure out, and I bet it will generate some good comment discussion too.”

So. Giving back.

Money, for me, is the easy part, and it gets easier the more money I earn. I’m already in the habit of making donations, many of which I’ve referenced on The Billfold—and I’ve been trying to decide, once I get my debt paid off, how much of my income I want to set aside for charity and crowdfunding. Do I want to go the full 10 percent? I do know that I want this to be a line item on my budget and I want to spend it down every month.

I don’t do as much research into individual charities or organizations as I should; I’m on Tumblr, so I know Which Ones To Avoid, but for both charitable donations and crowdfunding support I’m kind of operating on blind faith: Here is my money. I hope it can be helpful.

In terms of supporting specific causes in non-monetary ways, well… I just got my enormous King County Voters’ Pamphlet for the upcoming primary and special election and this time I’m actually going to read it. (I’ve calendared it for Saturday.) I’ve been reading people like Ijeoma Oluo and Roxane Gay explain that one of the best things white people can do to support #BlackLivesMatter is research local candidates and vote.

And then there’s the actual volunteering part, which is so much harder. I wish it weren’t. I wish I could say “hey, I’ve got this skill, I’d love to help kids or adults who need it.” But the logistics aren’t quite right.

There are a couple of Seattle organizations where it would make absolute sense for me to volunteer, but they want people who are available during the business day. That’s not going to work for me. I have between 18–20 deadlines to hit every week, and my time is literally slotted by the hour. Which isn’t to say that I couldn’t take a day off now and then to volunteer, and maybe I should. But I can’t be the person who’s always there on Wednesdays.

Even weekends are hard, because right now six out of my seven upcoming weekends are booked. I’m performing at Space Time in San Diego. I’m attending the PNWA conference. I’m teaching a class at Hugo House. (I’m also spending two of the weekends with friends.)

And it could be that these types of events count as “giving back,” because I am giving my time and my talents for the community, but I’m also doing something I love (teaching, performing, talking to people) and getting a financial benefit and a career boost.

Mapping My Career Through Conventions

So I don’t know. I know I want to do more, but it’s hard to figure out how without doing less of something else, and there’s not yet a lot of room for less of in my life.

How do you find ways to give back? Is it also easier for you to give money than time?

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