Friday, October 2, 2009

More Confrontation With Money

These past few weeks have been a blur for me. I left the Tacoma Catholic Worker with much more sadness than I could have anticipated. The community members and Jesuit Volunteers pulled me back to purpose. I spent hours in fascinating conversation about life, love, family, service, music, and community. I ended my days covered in dirt from the garden, and plans each night were anyone's guess. My three weeks in Tacoma excited me for my future route through the west coast.

My excitement did break, however, as my grandma was recently hospitalized. Days after, on September 24, she passed away in hospice care in Pasco, Washington. Grieving a family member is new to me as an adult, and the process weighs on me. Yet the blessing amidst the sadness is family. Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren: we are bonded together in our love for Grandma. And while that love was comforting, I couldn't shake the expectation for Grandma to walk through the door of her Lutheran church and join us in singing her favorite hymns.

I won't pretend to have the slightest idea of the workings of life and death (I think my entries are proof of such ignorance); but in effort to further my understanding of life, I am confronting the issue of need. As a first step, this morning I worked on my budget for the year. When I decided to embark on this year of travel, simplicity was not a goal but a requirement. I hadn't hoped for extreme poverty, yet I find myself with $327.13 to my name (not including some leftover money on a Target gift card and Fred Meyer coupon).

Side note:

I have been given money by some family and friends. Some people have bought me dinner, drinks, paid for gas. And for all of these acts of generosity, I am grateful. But I do not want to skim through this year on the dollars of my friends and family. Will I turn down your gift? No. Might I send it to a Catholic Worker or local organization? Yes, and I would encourage you to do the same.

I already knew I wouldn't be able to pay for flights across the country, which is why I quickly abandoned any hopes to go to the School of the Americas Watch, and the east coast Catholic Workers. When I was telling some high school friends about my financial situation, one exclaimed, "That's less than one dollar a day!" For some reason, I had never thought of it like that, probably because I didn't ever take a good look at how far I could get with my money.

I was resistant to make a budget because of my idea of simplicity: money is not the priority. And I still agree with that statement! Money is not the priority. When it is, we get wars and corporations. But I can't argue that money doesn't exist. I have money, and I am going about a system that requires money as an exchange for goods and services. It would be hard to convince Amtrak or Greyhound that a jar or two of homemade blackberry jam would suffice for a ticket to San Francisco (even though I think that's a fair deal). Plus, you can't make that trade online, which is a hindrance.

In more detail, my outline of finances shows that I have approximately $36.34 per month through June. (My plans after June? We'll talk about that in June.) Within mainstream society, I can't really make that pittance support anything. People who are receiving multiples of that are still fighting to keep above ground. Lucky for me there is more than mainstream society. There are Rideshares through Craigslist, the Lower Columbia Community Action Council, dumpster diving, Goodwill, and most importantly hospitality.

My biggest hope right now is not that I'll make it until June. I know I will. That's not in question. My biggest hope is that I can make it to June without expecting rescue. Less than $40 a month will be difficult, especially for the girl who used to regularly overcharge her debit card at the mall. I'm not looking forward to the inevitable "I don't have enough money" breakdown. As long as I stay true to my goals for the year (see below), I have to remember I will be fine.

Goals and Purposes
* to explore the Catholic Worker lifestyle in new environments
* to better understand the needs of, use for, and actions of community
* to challenge myself as an individual to take risks, face discomfort, handle uncertainty and eventually find inner strength and peace
* to learn more about simplicity, nonviolence, hospitality and service and how to incorporate these values into my life
* to interact with people I might never have spoken to
* to find beauty and grace, even in the midst of suffering
* to bring the Catholic Worker to my family and friends as something tangible, relatable, real, possible
* to learn to love more deeply and more often
* to find Jesus and my faith

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