For the last several days, my Facebook feed has been drowning in postings, comments, shares, and weird emojis all about a young girl from my hometown who has started a crowd funding page to raise money for her college tuition. Apparently her parents cut off all support, financial and otherwise, because she is in relationship with a young, black man. She raised $15,000 in just one day by telling her story online, and national news outlets are covering her story while thousands of others are talking about it. Some agree, some don’t. If you aren’t from Memphis, you probably haven’t seen the story at all.
I am trying to process what I think about the whole thing, which has lead me to some serious self-introspection about how I feel in regards to support raising in general. Living in one the largest missionary hubs of the country (Orlando is headquarters to several large missions organizations), and having raised financial support to attend seminary myself, I can easily sound like a hypocrite when it comes to raising money.
When I first read the story, I felt anger towards the parents. It seems absolutely ludicrous that two educated, highly functioning adults would be able to maintain that level of ignorance, especially when it comes to their daughter. Then I started asking questions. What’s the whole story? Is there more to it? What other options have been explored? Where is the rest of the family? What about teachers and friends and coaches?
I don’t know the whole story. None of us do, unless you are behind closed doors with this girl and her family. And here is my point. We don’t need to know the whole story. It isn’t ours to know. If people want to donate to this girl’s college education, they are going to donate. If they don’t want to, they won’t. Her plea isn’t much different than that of the homeless man standing at the intersection while you are stopped at a red light. He claims to be homeless and in need of food. You don’t know his story, where he comes from, whether or not he will use it for good. So what do you do? Do you write a Facebook post about it? Do you give him money? Do you ignore him?
I just fired off a series of texts to a close friend explaining why I don’t agree with some aspects of this campaign, but I immediately heard my own hypocrisy in my words. Who am I to judge her, or her parents, or anyone else for that matter?
We all need help at one point or another in life. I have worked with transgendered teens who needed to pay for their own cars and college bills because their parents had kicked them out of the home and refused to support them in their current choices. I have friends whose parents couldn’t afford to send them to college so they worked and saved, or went to a two-year college first and then transferred later. I know women who have become pregnant by rape and kept the baby, then returned to high school and college in their thirties.
Life is unpredictable. Nothing is guaranteed. The best predictor of the future is past experience, and even that can change at any moment.
Today this girl is asking for help. Tomorrow it may be me. Or you. We all may go about it differently. And we most certainly all won’t agree. And you know what I am learning as each day goes by? That’s ok. Right now everyone is against something. I am tired of being against people. I want to do a better job of being for people.