Monday, March 15, 2010

Money money money, must be funny.....

My phone has been disconnected. Again. Not the first time and probably won't be the last. I've never been good with money but the reasons are sound. I am an eternal optimist. I am only ever one big contract away from the financial big time. Only ever one paycheque away from being wealthy beyond measure for another few days.

When we found out that I was somewhat unexpectantly pregnant with T, C was instantly pragmatic. "We'll have to move to Woolston you know. We won't be able to stay living in Sumner." Riveria of the South that it is, we managed to hang on and though I had to sell my car and bus everywhere with my newborn baby I was only ever one big contract away from the big time. There were days when C would be on his way home for lunch and I'd tip all the cushions off the couch searching for enough coins to catch the bus and buy two slithers of ham at the local deli. Sometimes I couldn't afford the bus ride home.

You'd think C would have been a better provider. But in fact, he was. I had a debt that he didn't know about and so every week I would squirrel away housekeeping money to pay the lender and stretch the remaining food money to its absolute limit. Why didn't I just tell him? I was too proud. Too full of my own cleverness to admit to being so dumb. The only bill in our house I had to pay? The phone. And to this day, despite the increasing deposits in my bank account I never seem to have enough money for Telecom on the days they want it. Organise conferences? No problem. Speak in front of 1000 people? Piece of cake. Pay a lousy phone bill on time? Not so much.

It's got me thinking about money and the financial stresses of being unwell. Please be very clear, I am blessed beyond all blessedness and don't need your food parcels or postage stamps. But there must be people all around me who are not buffered in the way I am from the exhausting burden of making ends meet when times are tough. All the cancer books I've read suggest offering to help with meals and a cup of tea and that's all well and good but I think for some people what they most need is cold hard cash to pay the power bill.

So I've come up with a little solution. Rather than wait for the bad times to fall we should all contribute a percentage of our income into a central pot so that money can be allocated to those who need it most for basic things like food, clothing, education, and healthcare. And voila! Just like that, I'm a socialist.

The generosity of my friends has been overwhelming. About 50 people from the Sumner Theatre Group put on a Cabaret show giving up a Thursday night when nights off were most precious and performed for 170 locals who each paid $30 a ticket to watch the show. All the proceeds were given to my Mum to help pay for her flights back and forth from Auckland during my treatment. My first ever, and favourite, stalker (m.o.t.l) was given a suitcase full of $20 notes totalling $6,000 from her community in Timaru when she was first diagnosed.

So what stops us giving more freely of our money and asking for financial help when we need it? I think some of us have puritanical attitudes to money that if applied to other areas of our lives we would be ashamed of. I'm already on record for rather selfishly agreeing to pay whatever school fees necessary if it means I don't have to use my valuable time selling bloody bars of chocolate or attending fundraising committee meetings. No one would like to be thought of as inflexible in their parenting, or ironclad in their attitude to sexuality, or even too dogmatic politically. And yet some of us are still okay about being tight-fisted bastards when it comes to sharing our loot. I helped to organise a fundraiser for our local Plunket when T was a tiddler. $15 for a glass of wine and a dessert plate of nibbly nibble things. The Plunket made $4 on each ticket and a number of women complained that $15 was a bit much for just the one glass of wine. "Piss off you silly cow" I said to one, and "Piss off you silly cow" I said to the other. I am no longer involved with that group.

We're not much better at asking for financial help either. Pride. Potential rejection. Humiliation. Scaredy-catness.

I once borrowed $10,000 from a work colleague who on one level I barely knew and on another had known deeply ever since we first met. It was the single biggest kindness I can remember of my entire life. Not just because it's a shitload of money but because of the willingness with which it was lent. I have, of course, paid it back in full. He believes lending it gave him greater pleasure than it did for me to receive it. About this, he is wrong.

I don't advocate lending your friends large sums of money. I may have become a socialist for this blog update but I'll be a hard headed capitalist by the time the next one rolls around. I advocate giving it to them.

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