There has been a lot of action on the Internet regarding Go Fund Me. Talk of people abusing the system. Brides asking for money to help pay for their weddings but no wedding invitation is forthcoming. Other folks want to take a trip to Europe or buy a new car. Supposedly some people are receiving these requests on a daily basis.
According to a piece I read in the N.Y. Times the writer received the following plea from a woman who needed help with legal expenses for her divorce: "My life -- the innocent, carefree life which I had known, and the blissful happy life of hopes and dreams shattered overnight. Instead of partaking of gourmet meals and donning my kalla/bridal trousseau, chaos and turmoil, sprinkled with vicious gossip became my daily food and clothing."
Then there was the wealthy best-selling chick lit author married to some multimillionaire banking tycoon who set up a Kickstarter account to help fund her dream of writing a cookbook, "Good Taste: Good Food. Good Life."
Maybe it's the people I hang around with, or possibly the middle class life I lead in the 21st century where health costs have skyrocketed and pensions have disappeared, but I have never received a GoFundMe request like these. I am writing this blog in between serving breakfast and making beds and cleaning toilets at the Inn where my husband and I work and live for free because we are trying to reduce our monthly nut and possibly save some money to retire by seventy, if we live that long.
This has been my experience with GoFundMe:
The first request I received was from my daughter's dear friend Robbie McCluskey's family. He had been paralyzed from a skateboarding accident and was now a quadriplegic at the age of twenty one. I knew Robbie well. He hung around our house quite often during my daughter's high school years. This is a young man who spent his summers working at a camp for kids with cancer.
Not long before his accident, I was in Denver visiting my daughter at college when Robbie passed through town on a road trip. While my daughter was in class, Robbie and I spent an afternoon watching back to back episodes of Sons of Anarchy, eating Kraft macaroni and cheese and chocolate chip cookies, and drinking a beer or two. I asked him what it was like working at the camp and he told me you learn a lot about life when you meet an 8 year old who might not be returning next summer.
Robbie is a fighter and is now able to walk with the help of arm braces. He overcame what seemed to be the impossible but he has a long road ahead of him. Both his parents work full time and have health insurance which Robbie qualifies for because he is under twenty six. However, some of the most helpful therapies are not covered by his parents' insurance. This is the world most of us live in, so they have set up a GoFundMe account which you can find here.
The second request I received came almost a year later from a friend I have known for years. We had drifted apart due to busy lives and distance but I ended up in a cubicle in her hometown, sitting for health insurance as I called it, working on having a nervous breakdown, and finding my way out of it by writing my first novel. We would occasionally meet for drinks, far less frequently than we should have looking back on it, and commiserated about life, love, and work. She had a job at a similar company but was a much more cheerful cubicle dweller than I ever was. Although, as we both agreed, the fact she had a window might have made a difference.
I moved to Florida then Connecticut to run the Inn but we are Facebook friends and one day I noticed I hadn't seen her posts in awhile. I went to her page to check in and discovered she had been in the hospital for five weeks. On a beautiful summer day she found herself gasping for breath and was rushed to the hospital where after dozens of blood transfusions and tests they discovered she had a rare form of melanoma that was internal and was attacking her arm and shoulder. She underwent surgery to have the arm and shoulder amputated. She is now undergoing six weeks of radiation and kicking cancer's ass.
This is a woman who has a good job and has health insurance although I am not sure of the status of either at this point in time. She's been through a rough couple of months and she has a battle ahead of her but her optimism and fighting spirit is an inspiration to all who know her. Her friends and family have set up a GoFundMe account which you can find here.
It's unfortunate some people have taken to the World Wide Web to raise money for vacations or a new house or a cookbook they could afford to finance on their own, either that or try to live within their means which is what most of us do. I don't know these people. The people I know and have supported through GoFundMe were embarrassed to ask for help but their fight for the decent healthcare they need made them swallow their pride.
They too would like to return to their blissful happy lives of hopes and dreams that were shattered overnight. They work hard. They are not takers, they don't drive pink Cadillacs, or buy expensive seafood with food stamps as some people would have you believe.
My experience with GoFundMe has led me to understand it is a community of people whose country's safety net has failed them. I don't know what your experience is. You either know what I'm talking about or you've never walked down this road in these shoes, in which case you might not give a shit. There are a lot of things on the Internet we all ignore. Pop-ups, cookies, endless emails to buy something or Vote for Me. Possibly even the challenge to pour a bucket of ice over your head.
The problem here is that people who use this fundraising tool to further their own discretionary hopes and dreams are distracting us from the real problem. Why is it that in the land of plenty there are thousands of hard working people who need help paying their medical bills? That should be the topic we are discussing. That is the blog that needs to go viral. And in the meantime, when you receive a request like this from a friend or a friend of a trusted friend , don't ignore it because some day it might be you who needs a helping hand. Or as others like to say, there but for the grace of God go I.