Tag Archives: Charity

Not Just Waiting

I miss something I’ve never actually had. It’s kind of a confusing feeling, but I’m used to it by now. I attend Mass primarily with people around my grandmother’s age, and I’m one of about seven people who attend weekly Adoration. When we sing, I’m one of the only people who sings loudly, and I don’t sing nearly as loudly as I want to. At the Easter Mass, when the priest says, “He is risen,” and we’re supposed to repeat it triumphantly, he just repeats himself because no one says anything. We’re so used to the fact that Christ is risen that it sounds like old news. It’s not old news.

I miss the joy and triumph I know people once had. I think to a lot of people, church feels like an annoying obligation. If that weren’t the case, and if people really believed what we say we believe, we’d be louder, and Reading would be a much more Christian town. Yesterday I was teaching the kids about Advent. I had watched a video done by Bishop Robert Barron about the kingship of Jesus, and about how Advent should be about preparing for the King. I asked the kids how we might prepare for a king. They didn’t really have a concrete answer, and I realized, neither did I. I call Jesus my King, but I’m realizing that I might not exactly know what that means.

I’ve fairly recently started praying the Rosary daily. I learned how to do it a while ago, but I’ve only started to get serious about doing it within the past couple of weeks. That was when I learned that demons don’t like it one bit, and that it was just a very powerful prayer in general. At first, I have to admit, it did feel a bit mechanical. Now, I can do it really without even thinking so much about what I’m actually saying, and just focus on each of the mysteries. Just within the past few days, the Lord has given me some good stuff to think about. I’ve just been doing them in circular order, so last night I did the Sorrowful Mysteries. I hate it, but last night I realized that Jesus hurts with us when we hurt and I have no way of repaying him. As I write this, though, I’m realizing that maybe praying through his Passion is my way of hurting with him.

Yesterday I read a post entitled “Love Hurts.” It makes you vulnerable, and if you’re willing to be vulnerable, you have to be willing to let your heart be broken. I wrote in one of my stories that a broken heart has to be given away to be fixed. Two or three weeks ago, the Gospel reading at church was about when the king separates the “goats” from the “sheep,” in other words, the unrighteous from the righteous. He says to the righteous that they took care of him when he was alone, or sick, or lonely, or in need, and they say they have no idea what he’s talking about, and he says that if they did it for any of the “little guys,” they did it for him. Likewise, he says that if the unrighteous didn’t do these things, they didn’t do it for him. I hate this parable because there’s not a whole lot of practical stuff I can do to help the “little guys.”

I sulked for a day, thinking I was going to Hell for sure, and then I don’t remember what brought me to this conclusion, but I read something, or saw a video, or something, that basically led me to realize that Jesus expects us to give him what we can, not what we can’t. To tie all of this back to Advent, we have to understand that Christ is the risen King. That should be freaking us out because it’s kind of awesome. Advent isn’t just about his first coming. It’s about preparing for his second coming, too, and about recognizing his Kingship in our lives now. Jesus is a fair and loving King. He also happens to be the God of the Universe, who came into our world as a baby. As a man, and through his witnesses, he says to every single person, “I want you to do and/or believe ‘X,’ but I love you too much to make you.” We should be seriously freaking out about this. All I have to give him is my writing talents, my prayers, and my time.

Yesterday, on my break between my CCD classes, I went into the church and just hung out for half an hour or so. Since no one else was in there, I sang a song for Jesus, and then felt sort of awkward about it. I’m not very good at being quiet. Maybe that’s something I need to work on to prepare for the King this Advent. Maybe I need to turn some of the music and movies, and everything else I love off just a bit, so I can hear his voice a bit more clearly. Maybe all he needs is a little more room.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

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Money

I have complicated feelings about money. My dad makes a lot of money, and by most peoples’ standards, my family is wealthy. My parents paid cash for me to go to college. That’s pretty crazy. I personally am broke. I’m on social security disability because I can’t just go out and get any job. I’m pretty stingy, and I’m good at saving what money I have. Still, my parents spoil me and help me pay for a lot of things. You have no idea how much I hate that. I want to contribute to our family’s income, and my mom keeps telling me that I am because of social security, but that’s not really my money. I didn’t earn it. I feel like I’m leaching.

Here’s the thing: I don’t want money. If I had a crap ton of money, I would give a crap ton of money away. At the same time, I want money so that I can independently contribute to my family’s income. I almost sold out. I stopped writing for a while because I just wanted a job so badly. I want to be able to occasionally splurge or donate to causes that I care about without having to feel guilty. I’m not good at accepting help. I get that from my dad. His side of the family is very proud about that kind of thing, and I inherited it.

I guess I don’t hate money. Some people say they hate money, especially when they don’t have it. I get the reasoning, but I don’t hate it. I just don’t have it, and that annoys me. My mom doesn’t work, so we’ve always treated our money like it’s all in one pot that belongs to all of us, and if I had my own money, I guess we would still treat it like that, but I would just feel a lot better about using money if I was contributing to the pot. You get the point. I should probably just stop worrying about it and be patient. Right now my parents don’t care if I contribute to the pot. They want me to finish my book and do stuff that I care about. I guess that’s really more important, anyway. In other words, this is just another whiney tangent about nothing. I do that sometimes.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

I’ve Been Thoroughly Educated, Thank You Very Much

Last night I went to see Tenth Avenue North. It was an absolutely amazing night. My dad and I got there early because we had VIP tickets so we could meet the band. They’re a bunch of super nice, funny guys, and their music is fantastic. What’s more is, since we got there early, we got to grab whatever spot we wanted in the entire chapel (this was at my school). We were literally touching the stage. It was a little claustrophobic because it was a sold out show and everyone wanted to be up front, but it was just so much fun.

What I love about their music, though is that it’s super fun to just listen to, but it also gets me thinking. I like things that make me think. I like to be challenged sometimes; not just entertained. Anyway, what was super awesome is that their new album doesn’t officially come out until tomorrow, but they had copies available at the show, so I snagged one.

They have one song on the new album–I forget which one, but there’s a few lines that go:

Forgive me
Forgive me, Lord
For living
Like I’m not yours

And I had it stuck in my head as I was going to sleep last night.

Today I’ve been sort of antsy. I feel like I need to be doing something, but I don’t know what that something is. I do need to be doing homework, but that’s beside the point.

As part of their show, Tenth Ave talks a little bit about Compassion International, partly because they sponsor a few kids through that organization, and partly as a promotional thing to try and get some of us interested. They talked about it last year when I saw them, Rend Collective talked about them when I saw them a few weeks ago, and Tenth Ave talked about them again last night. They’re not obnoxious about it, and they don’t try and guilt anyone into doing anything. It’s just important to them. It still makes me feel guilty, though.

It makes me feel guilty for weird reasons. Firstly, I mentioned this before, but I take things that Jesus said very literally, and he said that we ought to help the poor. Secondly, I am in a very weird financial position at the moment. I am the daughter of a guy who is a successful banker, and who makes a lot–I mean a LOT of money. He’s paying for my brother and me to go to college, and when we graduate, we will have borrowed nothing. By that standard you could say I’m ridiculously wealthy. However, if I wasn’t leaching off my parents, I’m not sure I’d be able to support myself. I’d probably manage, but it would be pretty tough. That said, I think I’d still be in the top 1% of the world. By American standards I’m broke. By world standards, I’m filthy rich. It’s confusing. Thirdly, I don’t feel called to help the poor. I feel called to make peace.

For one thing, I’m good at it. I’ve been able to help fix at least a couple nasty relationships, and I’ve actually been able to help a few people be a bit more optimistic about humanity in general. What I really want to do is help people make peace with God. I didn’t feel like I had courage enough to do that until recently, but I really want to now, and I’m not afraid to talk about it and write blatantly obvious songs about it. I’m convinced that the world is good and people are inherently good. I’ve just encountered so much pessimism and anger about the state of the world that I feel like I should do something about it.

Part of being a peacemaker is getting people to understand that we’re all on equal footing, and getting people to love each other. Loving each other means helping each other, so really, helping the poor is part of that.

The reason I bring up the Tenth Ave quote is that I feel like I haven’t been doing this lately. I’ve written a few blog posts, but beyond that I’ve just been coasting. I’ve been wasting a lot of time on the internet or playing video games when I could be researching music stuff or doing homework. Homework isn’t directly related to being a peacemaker, but I need to get through this semester, and I do feel like I owe it to God to try and do well in school. Lately I’ve just wanted to be lazy, and I guess that’s normal, but it doesn’t make it right.

I’m just finding it hard to really take a whole lot of interest in my work this semester. I’m just not finding my classes all that interesting, and I kind of feel like it’s an obligatory waste of time. I want to work and make money and do things that will actually make a difference in the world. I’ve sort of been struggling with this for about two years now, and I guess it’s getting to a point where I really need to be done with school. A lot of people have been asking me if I want to go to grad school. The answer is “no.” I’ve been thoroughly educated, thank you very much. Now I’d like to put that education to good use.

Because in my world, guinea pigs can fly!

The Bystander Effect

Yesterday in my philosophy class we talked about the bystander effect. We talked about how a group of people will stand and watch a child drown purely because there are other people there. People seem to have a mentality of “no one else is helping, why should I?” It’s why the genocide of the Jews in Germany was even possible.

It’s also why there are millions of starving children in the wold. We talked about how it seems that a person who is able to help should be morally obligated to from an egalitarian viewpoint. We talked about how people act based on social norms and an innate sense of self preservation and how this does not  seem to correlate with egalitarianism or a common sense of compassion.

It disturbed me a little in class, but we have talked about this kind of thing numerous times before in other classes mainly on a theoretical level. It sunk in however when I read an add in the school bulletin that gets sent out once a day via email. A girl was asking for help with a public speaking project she had coming up and I almost replied, but then I thought, “Well, she probably already has several other people offering to help her and I’m busy.” It is midterms. What if everyone else was “too busy” as well? I most likely have a few hours to spare some time this week. Am I morally obligated to help that girl?

Something else struck me today. I remembered that Jesus said, “The poor will always be with you.” Why? Is it because people aren’t helping? Is it because of economic or social structures, as some would argue? Do they bring poverty upon themselves? Is it forced upon them? What bothers me most is that word always. Is there nothing we can do to stop it? Is poverty an undying force that can’t be stopped?

A question that plenty of people deal with all the time is; why, if God is good does he allow suffering? I don’t have an answer to that. Everyone suffers in one way or another. It’s because we live in an imperfect world. What I really don’t get is why some people suffer WAY more than others. What’s more is that often times, the more people suffer, the stronger their faith is. In fact, many people bring suffering upon themselves to strengthen their spiritual life. The thing about our God is that he suffered for us, and he suffers with us. I know that, but I don’t entirely know what it means. God is with us and he is with us in our suffering, but what does it mean that he suffers too? I think if I could figure that out I would understand a lot of other things as well.

Last semester in my creative nonfiction writing class I read a short piece called “Being Christ to the Traveler.” In short it was about a guy who offers to hold a drunk guy’s flowers while he pees out the door of a train (the guy had evidently just broken up with his girlfriend). We can help anyone by doing little things like that, but it takes so much more to help the poor or the people dying of AIDS over in Africa.

The thing is, I basically don’t have anything saved. If it weren’t for my parents I’d be dead on the street somewhere, but as it stands I live in an awesome house in a nice, safe neighborhood, I go to a super nice college and took guitar lessons for five years. I personally am very poor. I have a part time job, but because of school and music I don’t work much and I make peanuts; actually less than peanuts.

All the money I’ve saved or that I make goes to recording my first album, and that’s where I’m conflicted. My plan/hope is to be able to live off of music and have a little extra to send to charities, etc. What we talked about in my philosophy class was this; is it more morally right to take the money one spends on college/recording/whatever and just give that to charity, or should one wait, go through college/recording/gigging/whatever and ultimately be able to do much more and help many more people? I don’t know.

I guess a good compromise is to help who you can when you can, how you can, but I don’t think it’s quite as satisfying as being able to say you got a kid out of poverty. I guess we’re not supposed to look for satisfaction out of helping people. Again, I’m probably thinking about this too much.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Make Use Of Your Magic

I’ve spent many hours over the past 2 or 3 days trying to figure out if there was some kind of volunteer work I could do from home or close by in town. I don’t drive so I didn’t want my work to end up being inconvenient to my parents or anyone else who would be willing to drive me. What made things even more complicated was that my disability makes it impossible to do many hands-on tasks that I would sincerely love to do. I still haven’t found anything that’s close enough or even doable.

In Luke 14 Jesus says to a man who invited him to a banquet that he should not invite rich neighbors or friends and family to his lavish dinner party. Instead he should invite the poor, the lame, etc. His rich friends can and probably will repay him, but the poor can’t pay him back. If he takes care of them though, it’s out of love and compassion and he will be “repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

I read this the other day and it really struck me. I want to help people because I should. Something I figured out while I was searching was that if you want to volunteer you have to pick a problem and a cause and focus on those and those alone. There are a lot of things that bother me, but a few of them are related. Needless hate and violence really bothers me. Apathy is likewise a big problem that is often overlooked. I remember hearing a story about a man who decided to commit suicide. He lived in a large city and his note said, “I’m going to the bridge. If one person smiles at me or even acknowledges me, I won’t jump.” The story did not have a happy ending.

I remember when we went down to Georgia for my graduation/18th birthday trip. We were spending a night in Charleston, South Carolina and we were wandering around trying to find a place to eat– obvious tourists. A young man noticed us and asked us if we needed any help in a very friendly voice. I don’t remember if we said yes or no, but I do remember that we were slightly in shock. We weren’t used to complete strangers being that nice to us.

Ironically, people often seem to care more about people oversees than own next door neighbors. There is poverty, hunger and homelessness right here in the U.S. I’m not saying our problems are more important than anyone else’s. However, I do think that solutions could start at home. I love the idea of paying it forward. If everyone made an individual effort to make one other person’s life better, that person might do the same for someone else. In a literal sense, I think we can spread love; if we try hard enough, we can spread it all over the globe.

Love and compassion can save lives. It trumps greed and selfishness and it brings people together instead of pushing them farther apart. I think the best thing is to do what you can.  If you can write, then write and inundate the internet with the shared message of love. If you can travel to foreign countries and build houses for people, do that because that seriously needs to be done. If you can sing, then belt it and make sure people hear that love will win.

I think sometimes people are guilted into inaction. If you’re not out on the front lines of a particular organization’s effort than you’re a terrible person. I definitely think that this kind of mentality is harmful. Every person has a different situation and a different skill set that can be useful for making this world a better place. The trick is to figure out how to put those skills to use. It’s an opportunity to be creative and challenge yourself while doing something wonderful.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Ideas In The Dark

I was bored last night. I’ve been having trouble finding new gigs and I was feeling a little bummed out. I was playing a game on my phone and just thinking about stuff when I had a random, yet awesome idea.

I want to organize a benefit concert/art show to raise money to help the people in Oklahoma. I’ve already enlisted 2 of my friends: Kevin, who is super good at organizing stuff like this and Nate, who is another musician/songwriter. I’ve also possibly enlisted Ken to help us with sound. We just need to figure out a place, date and time. I’m really hoping this can be an outdoor event. Once we have that figured out I’ll put something in the local News paper and probably my church’s bulletin. I’m thinking that tickets will be around $10, and if anyone wants to be in the art show or sell CD’s they will have to pledge at least 10% of whatever they sell. If we can get the word out, I’m thinking we will also take donations from wherever, even if people can’t make it to the show. I think this will work well. I’m super excited. I’ll update you guys when I know more details.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Free For All

My mom picked me up from the studio on Friday and somehow the conversation went very quickly from music to money– specifically taxes. I’m more liberal than Ken or my mom on a few issues, but when it comes to money I’m very conservative. My mom started talking about how there is basically no incentive to work hard anymore because middle class families are paying absurd amounts of money to the government to pay for handouts to people who don’t work and don’t pay any taxes.

There are several problems with this structure. The first is that fewer people are willing to help each other out of the goodness of their hearts because they are being forced to help by the government. There is much less trust because people assume that everyone on welfare abuses the system when in fact there are people in this country who badly need help for legitimate reasons. The second problem is that people do abuse the system. There are people who are perfectly capable of finding a job and working hard but prefer to collect unemployment and use food stamps. I personally know some of these people and they have nicer stuff than my family does because we hardly go out and we don’t see super expensive stuff as a priority. I’m not saying that having nice things is a bad thing, but you should have to work for them.

Furthermore, high taxes hurt small businesses. Ken told us that after taxes and expenses he hardly makes any money from the studio. He loves his job and he’s very good at it and he has great ideas for expanding the business, but his hands are currently tied. My ultimate goal is to become a touring musician, but if that doesn’t work out I’ll get some kind of writing or editing job. My plan is to get at least popular enough so that the taxes won’t kill me. I just want to be able to live comfortably without worrying about money.

My mom’s grandparents didn’t have to worry a out this stuff when they came over from Italy. They worked incredibly hard and even though they were poor, they didn’t gripe about it. They worked, and eventually they bought five houses on the same street. They had fourteen children and all of those children lived in those five houses unless they decided to leave. Those children all had children and they were still poor, but they all helped each other. Their children grew up happy, educated and successful. No one helped them except their family. If the options are to work or starve, people will work. It sounds harsh, but it seems that some people need to be forced into that position. This still does not mean that individuals and other organizations should not help each other. It is in fact the duty of the Church to take care of the poor.

Now because travel is so easy, families are separated sometimes by entire continents or oceans. It should be families, friends and private charities helping people, not the government. The government should be worrying about international affairs, keeping the peace within our own borders, education and taking care of infrastructure. When they forcibly take people’s hard earned money and give it to people who may not deserve it they make them want to hold onto whatever is left with both hands, creating an “every man for himself” mentality.

Ok…. Rant is over.