When Time Is All You Can Donate

I have been an actively outspoken writer since I was 12 years old in an antisemitic town, growing up in St. Cloud, reminding people Christianity is not the only religion that exists in a predominantly Christian city.

The towering Christian high school passed me every day as I biked 5 miles to a school across town because I went to one with programs that catered to Deaf and hard of hearing. I joined a leadership program while having brain surgery, working 40 hours a week, and struggling to keep it together. I was desperate to reconnect with the Jewish community. I stepped into Israel again, and made friends from Poland, Hungary, and so many other backgrounds. I started writing here again and I joined a local committee because I am not physically able to attend protests or be around anyone with COVID.

Yet I have served in various capacities while using JFCS’ services. I look every year at the hosted fundraiser and the tickets usually are expensive, and my thought: Is our demographic supposed to be only people that work or earn enough to give back? That was my plan before I became sick; I work in a lucrative field, I plan to return to it someday and give it back to the community that has helped me in so many ways, I can’t count them.

But after all these years, remembering a leadership program I attended as part of NFTY, after having my fees for all the fall and spring kallah events covered by my synagogue, after having my own current synagogue present in my life, I still broke a tear.

The email came from one of the groups strongly wording that if we did not give money, we were not worthy leaders. I advise, and encourage any groups – JCA, JFCS, Jewish Federation, any groups you’re asking money from being aware you may have members who contribute their time because that is the only way they can.

I use my writing because it is my voice, it is my representation, it is what I use to speak out and bring awareness, both within the community and out. I speak out because that is my talent. That is my skill, that is how I contribute.

Yet to strongly word it as if those of us who are sitting frantically trying to calculate how to pay next month’s rent, possibly having to apply for the county’s assistance, who have regular crime at their own front door, it says we aren’t good enough. It says we shouldn’t be here, we should only be here if we can contribute the money. So watch how you word the things you say because you might drive away people who can contribute their time. Money is not the only valuable commodity and money might be tight everywhere. A leader is not worth the dime in their pocket and it is not worth someone giving a dollar if they cannot afford their meds. That is the choice I would’ve had to make: Do I pay for medicines or do I donate so I can feel like I am a leader?