Jewish Journal


October 17, 2010

When Being Poor Makes You a Rich Person



Can you think of alternatives?

My first job out of college was fundraising for GLAAD, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. I spent three years pounding the pavement in markets such as San Diego, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. I wined and dined some of the most successful and affluent people in each of those cities and of course, asked them to write big checks to support the cause. Every time I made that ask, I was fakin’ it until I was makin’ it.

You see, asking for money is actually very difficult for me, though my track record of raising hundreds of thousands of dollars might cause you to think otherwise. Alas, sitting across the table from someone and asking them to turn over their hard-earned dough to me and the cause I was representing always made my stomach churn. I always felt needy, inferior and desperate. I also worried that they felt that I only wanted their support because they had money.

Is this some sort of ingrained Jewish guilt? Perhaps the more-prevalent teachings in Judaism about giving have made it confusing for my brain as I find myself asking far more often than the converse. Is it because I don’t have anything to give?

After an unfortunate interaction this past week I was reminded that we all have so much more to offer one another than money. Many of my peers and colleagues are just starting their careers; many are finding themselves suddenly unemployed. Regardless of our financial status, we know better than to stop giving when others are in need.

I thought about all the ways that my friends and I give even though we seemingly have nothing to offer:

1. Encouraging others to register to vote (the deadline in CA is Monday!)
2. Walks, Rides, and Rallies for causes we believe in
3. Providing a welcoming space at a Shabbat table
4. Lending a hand when moving, building, or creating
5. Standing up for one another & pledging to stop bullying
6. Listening and loving one another during heartbreak
7. Shouting and celebrating during times of triumph
8. Connecting one another for career opportunities or matchmaking
9. Sending a kind note (even on facebook), just because
10. Being present and supportive, no matter what

Do you have other ways that you give and receive that have nothing to do with money? I encourage you to share in the comments section below some alternative options of giving tzedakah (charity).

So much of our culture tells us that richness has to do with financial transaction. I beg to differ and would like to thank the many incredible people in my life who love and support me regardless of my financial status. If you haven’t been told enough recently, you are valuable, regardless of what’s in your wallet.

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