Recently I racked up $9,000.00 in debt by moving 3100 miles across country to start my life over after a series of setbacks that, frankly, are becoming too boring to even discuss. Everybody has problems, right? But a friend suggested I do a crowdfunding campaign through the Indiegogo website to help me get my head above water. I set a goal of 5k for my two month campaign, never really expecting to get a response.
The campaign ended just the other day, and much to my shock and awe I did reach 50 percent of my goal. But even more valuable than the money was all that I learned from the experience, about myself and about others. I never realized what a ride it would be until I hopped on.
First of all, as one might expect, it’s kind of humiliating to have to beg for money. Essentially, you are telling the entire world, “I can’t do this on my own.” No one likes to admit that.
Second, you spend a great deal of time dealing with the complex issue that a certain percentage of people are bound to assume that you are asking for something that you don’t really deserve because you’re lazy or you’re a scammer. There’s really no simple way to protest your innocence. “I am not a crook” didn’t work for Nixon, and it wouldn’t have worked for me, either.
And then, at least for me, there was a nagging feeling that maybe it was true. Maybe I didn’t really deserve help. I can think of at least a billion people who are worse off than I will ever be. Who do I think I am? What makes me so special? Those are really uncomfortable questions to have to wrestle with.
The moment the campaign was launched, the vultures started circling. “For just $200.00, I can make your campaign go viral!” “Sign up for tips on how to increase your visibility.” These e-mails made me really uncomfortable. It was like my financial desperation had somehow become a business opportunity. For me, this wasn’t business. This was my life.
Also, I got some really weird reactions from distant family members. One even told me that what I was doing was inappropriate and an embarrassment to the family. Wow. Several of them still aren’t speaking to me, and the irony is, none of them helped out, even emotionally, and I never expected that they would. They had never stepped up before, so it would have surprised me if they did now.
But the amazing thing, the thing that still brings tears of gratitude to my eyes, are the people who did step up. Many of them, I know for a fact, are struggling themselves, and they were often the most generous. Then there were the people from my distant past, many of whom I hadn’t had contact with in decades, who supported me without hesitation. And total strangers who said, “I’ve been where you are. Here. Good luck.” Some people said, “I wish I could contribute, but I have no money to give. But I wanted you to know that I heard your story and I’m pulling for you.” Even those who just shared a link to my campaign on their Facebook pages hold a special place in my heart.
I am humbled by everyone who supported me emotionally as well as financially. The memories of that will be more precious than gold long after this debt is nothing but a bad memory. And some day when I’m able, I plan to pay this generosity forward. That’s a promise.
It is when you have to bare your soul and humble yourself way beyond your comfort zone that you truly discover who your friends are, and that the world is a generous place, indeed. What a gift.