One of the most viciously insidious things that our culture does to keep working class people in their place is this ethos of independence. We are taught this myth of independence: an adult should be able to do everything without assistance all the time.
A friend of mine recently had a situation in which her car was hit by a reckless driver causing damage which impacted her ability to earn a living. It was suggested that she should create a GoFundMe to ask for help in repairing the car and dealing with a few other unexpected expenses, and she was very hesitant to do so.
The myth is that this idea of asking for help online with unexpected needs is some new millennial phenomenon. I’m here to tell you that is garbage.
In days past, when a person would have an unexpected expense, the community would come together to pitch in and help. They would pass the hat, sometimes literally. Most churches have a Deacon’s Fund or similar concept. This is something that everyone donates to with the understanding that it will be used to help someone who has a need beyond their capacity.
Before many unexpected needs were addressed by formal insurance, this was insurance. If you broke your leg and couldn’t work for a few weeks, your neighbors would collect money to help with your bills and bring you food and help with the kids and all the rest. This was done with the expectation that when another neighbor was in need, you’d be ready to pitch in.
Obviously, this is idealized, and did not happen in every situation, especially as we started moving to cities and no longer knowing our neighbors. Thus came the need for formalized insurance programs, government assistance, and the rest.
GoFundMe and other similar situations such as for my friend are not some new millennial trend. Rather, it is a digital mechanism to replace the form of supporting your neighbor in time of need that has held society together for the past 20,000 years.
Furthermore, this is not merely an artifact of the past. This is the way things are done among people of means today. Naturally, people with money don’t have to worry about the same small shocks like fender benders disrupting their lives. An unexpected accident or short term disability digs into savings rather than creating a crisis. But when larger issues arise, they are able to turn to their network for support. The business owner who turns to a friend for a loan to keep their business afloat through a crisis. The parent who turns to their friend to help with a financial need for a child.
Why don’t we hear about this? Because if you are a person of means and your friends are as well, you don’t need to 100 people to put together the money to address your need. You can ask one or two friends, and know that they will be able to help you without dramatic hardship, thus no need for a public request for assistance.
Put another way, if you do not have great wealth, you have been made to feel shame for not having great wealth when you need money to survive. If you buy into this, you are buying into the idea that not being wealthy makes you a worse person.
I, for one, do not buy into this. In fact, I believe that our willingness to support our neighbors, even those we do not know, makes us better people. The success of GoFundMe and other similar platforms in helping people overcome temporary hardship shows to me that we still live in a world of good people and that there is still hope for good in the world.
So if you need help, post that GoFundMe. And if you see someone asking for help, help them as you can. Remember that, when asked “who is my neighbor?” Jesus answer was that everyone is your neighbor.
If you’d like to help my friend Sarah, visit her GoFundMe here. If you are reading this after that request closes, consider finding another request and helping them. Even $1 or $5 can make a difference.