Wednesday, October 13, 2010

self addressed stamped envelopes

First, thank you for your kind thoughts and words yesterday. Today is less sad for everyone here. The sun still shines, the manure still stinks, but I forged ahead and baked a chocolate cake.

I got something in the mail the other day that my mind keeps turning over and over. I'm feeling peevish about this mail, a little self-righteous in my indignation, too. A family we know, not well but distantly, mailed us a request for money. They're adopting a boy from Africa and they'd like their church family to help support this choice through prayer and financial donations.

Ahem.

I'm pro-choice in the sense that I believe you choose whether to have a baby (or not). My friends who choose to have only a couple of babies don't ask me for support, neither do my friends who choose to have no babies. My friends who've opted for expensive fertilization treatments to have babies don't ask me for cash towards their doctor bills. And my friends who choose to adopt or foster children don't ask me for support. I acknowledge the considerable expense of having babies, having had 3 myself. I also know it's expensive to adopt a baby, whether from America or another country. While I applaud their courage to help this boy, I feel miffed that they're soliciting donations to their worthy cause.

It's one thing to get an invitation to a baby shower to help a new family get started. The gifts flow out of love and excitement. It's one thing to feel inspired by hearing about this family's adoption and voluntarily mail them a check of support. It's another thing to get a postage-paid envelope in the mail with a form letter requesting my charitable dollars. In my view, if you can't afford this choice, don't make it. It's each family's individual decision to have the size of family they are comfortable providing for--don't go adding to it if you can't hack it.

Does this sound harsh? Believe me, I'm not heartless. I feel charitable towards neighbors with five kids and the parents have been out of work for the past year and it's tough feeding everyone. Those situations break my heart and I feel a huge sense of obligation to pitch in. With open hands I've stepped forward to assist families battling terminal illnesses and medical bills, disasters like house fires, victims of accidents. But an international adoption is a planned event, the kind of thing you sort out before hopping on a plane. You should know before you get your passport whether it's an affordable choice. And you should not be looking to your friends and neighbors to foot that bill.

It makes me think about another family whose 5 daughters keep going on mission trips. They regularly mail us requests for money to pay their way overseas. When I was 18 I spent my summer in Egypt on a mission trip, working at the Lillian Trasher Orphanage. I paid for that trip largely out of my own pocket. Yes, some people financially supported my decision to go, but the bulk of the funds came out of my savings account and graduation gifts. I felt very uncomfortable asking people to pay my way anywhere, especially as it was my calling to go, not theirs. These girls going on mission trips are no doubt doing great things, but I don't like them asking me to help fund their Campus Crusade ministry over spring break in Florida. I think they should pay for these trips themselves.

For the same reasons I don't like people asking me to fund their overseas adoptions. Your good works shouldn't come out of someone else's wallet. That doesn't make it your good works and it isn't biblical. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:11 "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody." He says again in 2 Thessalonians 3:8 "Nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any o f you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: 'If a man will not work, he shall not eat.'" The Bible is full of directives to serve the poor, the foreigner, the widows and the orphans. We're supposed to do good works. But I'm not getting the message that we're supposed to ask other people to pay for our Christian charity in this way.

Spill it, reader. How would you feel?

25 comments:

  1. I am so with you on this. I can tell you that the three big First churches in our town have no money problems (especially if you count the Lexuses, Mercedes and BMW's in the parking lots) yet one in particular is notorious for their big youth mission trips to Mexico, Romania, etc. and EVERYBODY sends out those begging letters. Our church has two big events where we raise money for a fund to offer scholarships to people who want to participate in mission trips but can't afford it and I get really irritated with one person in particular who takes advantage of this fund time after time. Yes, I'm all about helping people, but to the point that you are a 50+ yr old man with no visible means of support and yet you've managed to travel on mission trips to Arizona, Peru, Ecuador, Republic of Georgia and Mexico just this year....something a little fishy about that, don't you think?

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  2. I agree too- There has been 3 different families in my small town west of GG who each have asked for monies to adopted international babies. Each time I did not donate $. No on is funding my children.

    I also have issue each summer when my church goes on mission trips to a city - such as Chicago or El Paso. Why can't the students do mission work in our own community or county. Everytime I ask this question, the response is "We are trying to open their eyes to helping others" UMM..so you can't do this in our town? Or the other response is "The students will come back with so many gifts and then share those gifts" I have yet to see a mission team go and do other work in the community. And to be perfectly honest, I will not promote my teens going on these trips.

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  3. Amen sistah! I completely agree with you. COMPLETELY.

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  4. First off, I don't think anyone who reads your blog would ever classify you as non-charitable (is that a word?). We all know you have a HUGE heart and lend a hand whenever possible.

    Second, if you can't afford to have a baby (whether you are carrying the baby in your belly or in your heart) than you probably can't afford to have a child. I am a HUGE fan of adoption (I still think of it as an option someday) but that child will need parents that can afford to keep him once he is in their home too. The adoption fee is just the beginning. Childbirth is expensive too. My hubby and I spent $10,000 for Grace's birth (no maternity coverage in our insurane plan) and it took a long time to pay it off (we JUST paid it off). I would not have DREAMED of asking someone for help. She is OUR child. We will pay for her.
    I believe adoption is approximately the same amount. Can be more can be less.

    Third, if there is something you want in life then it is worth working towards, saving for, planning for. You will find a way to get it, YOURSELF. It is what YOU want. You pay for it.

    So, yes, this would bother me. Very much.

    There are WAY TOO MANY children out there that need good foster homes. Perhaps becoming a foster parent would be a better idea and then maybe down the road they could adopt a foster child (once they save up the money).

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  5. That's a tough one! I'd say if you're not close with them, you're not obligated...and a form letter is tacky!

    Personally I'm all for adopting from the foster system...there are so many kids that need good homes here. Don't get me wrong, but international adoption (as good as it is) has seemed to become the "Christian fashion" of the day. We have friends who've adopted locally and internationally...most paid their way...others worked their tails off to raise the money. Hold a garage sale, make something to sell...I know one family that planted a field of sweet corn this summer to sell for funds. I'm all for people doing that...and I have no problem giving you an extra 20 with my corn purchase, but don't just expect it.

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  6. I appreciate people letting me know of their needs. I am not obligated to give, but I want the opportunity to decide to do so or not. (I also appreciate the SASE, because I see it is a courtesy rather than a statement of expectation.) We have not been asked to assist in meeting the expenses for an adoption, and I do agree that those expenses should be considered before proceeding with the process; however, that does not mean I would be willing to make a blanket statement that we would not ever give to assist in meeting such expenses if asked.
    Having been prepared to pay out of pocket for repeated mission trips this year, we still sent out letters asking others to partner with us through prayer and/or financial support. When receiving letters like those we have sent, I appreciate the opportunity to send someone else somewhere that I am not personally going to go. I do feel like it is a partnership when our family gives to send someone on mission, and when the reverse is true.

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  7. Firstly, Chica Verde, check your Email for a personal note from me.

    Secondly, mama, this Nice Christian Family has a lot of Christian Nerve, asking for your hard-earned dollar for their brand new black baby.

    two words: No. Class.

    I'm sorry, but No.
    I'm aware of how the Mission process works...since I have a Mormon supervisor, we've talked a lot about how important serving a 2-year mission is to the Mormons, and dude, it is rough, as far as expenses go. I imagine other Christians have a similar service policy.

    But this is just making a family...like Green Girl said, a choice...like buying a car, a house, getting breast implants, upgrading your computer, putting a couple of oak trees in the back yard, getting your nails done, or, let's say, getting married.

    I've heard Miss Manners talk about other crude people who just put the ubiquitous self-addressed-stamped-envelope in with their WEDDING invitations...UGH!!

    Asking for money in this way is just LOWBROW, people. Who on earth knows why, in this day and age, most people fail to see it this way...but asking your friends and well-wishers for cash on the nail for something that you chose to do is just declasse....in the case of a wedding, sure, some guests or family MAY choose to make a gift of money for reasons of their own. But it is the EXPECTATION of a financial gift, or the presumption, demand, request, suggestion, or plan that people are to provide money (to the host) that strips a host or bride or new parent of his or her grace and dignity in a very ugly and unfortunate way.

    Green Girl, I would have no hesitation about returning that self-addressed envelope with a letter inside it to this effect. Only shorter and nicer. *heh* Family Planning! Figure it out, Buddy!

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  8. I always think I should start a list of people who solicit donations from me for walks/marathons/adoptions/missions, etc and then when my boys get to school age and have to do the Christmas fundraisers like selling gift wrap...those people will be the first people we hit up. :-)

    I would be curious if you sent your boys with their Christmas wrapping paper sales form or something similar to their door if they would buy some.

    I sound pretty harsh too...and I guess I should note that whenever a child knocks on my door selling something...I try my best to purchase it. I remember being terrified to have to go knock on doors...I was very shy.

    Carolyn

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  9. Wow...you now this is something that has also been plaguing me for a while as well...I am all for helping someone out when something unexpected has happened...but I am with you on the mentioned circumstances, but I always feel as though it is so unChristianlike for me to feel this way...you truly put such a passionate and heated, no doubt, topic into such an eloquently stated opinion.

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  10. Very inappropriate to ask you for money to fund their child acquisitions. Although, if you are giving it out, I have a child to support, too. Hint hint. ;) (Just kidding.... please don't take offense.)

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  11. Hmmm... I've never heard of this. Though we did email a few of Sean's cousins this year and say that our foster son (lived with us for 4 years or so) was coming to the UK to spend the whole summer with us, and would anyone like to help us with his plane ticket? He is related to that side of the family, and they were always carrying on about how Allah would bless us for ever for taking the poor orphan in, etc, (but being largely useless otherwise) so Sean said "Let them put their money where their mouth is!"

    He had a ball, and my boys were so happy to have him here... but we didn't break even on donations!

    I'm sure the cousins thought we were very rude to ask for money! Maybe not though.

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  12. Interesting, tough topic. I don't belong to a church and my kids aren't in elementary school yet so I don't yet get a lot of requests for donations, primarily because I don't know that many people. I guess that's one solution. Try not to be part of a community and no one will ask you to support the community. J/K. (:

    I do, however, have a large extended family and often get charity requests of all kinds from my relatives. I don't mind receiving them and often give some money, even if it's really just a drop in the bucket. Same for the causes of close friends. For me, like some of your readers, my inclination to write a check depends largely on how well I know and care for the person making the request.

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  13. I agree with you 100%--and you've said it quite well.

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  14. I am so with you on this (to borrow a phrase from "Mom on the Run"). I have no problem giving money, food, things, etc to people in need. Ron and I have given the coats off our backs and the gloves off our hands on more than one instance. We've cleaned out our freezer and our pantry when disaster has struck those around us.

    But, no way - no day, would it be acceptable to send a letter like that (heck, I could have been soliciting funds for a few years now for medical bills if that's the way it should be). I'd be a bit miffed myself to receive something like that from someone who was only an acquaintance.

    Gee - if I'd known that I could travel on mission trips and get others to foot the bill, I might have... (just kidding - I would not; I rarely ask anyone for anything so I'm sure I wouldn't be asking anyone for money for a trip). Seriously though, our church as funded such trips but the people who go usually work all kinds of fund-raising events to put together the bulk of the money. I don't mind participating in things like this because I am helping with the expens, but I'm also getting something in return (probably a few extra pounds around my rear).

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  15. I couldn't agree with you more. Well said! Besides, don't you get a big tax write off for adopting a kid?

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  16. Wow. This is so shocking I don't know what to say. I'm glad the other commenters said it for me!

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  17. I agree with you on all counts.

    My sister and her husband are hoping to adopt and have been saving their money for this goal for a few years. They have never once asked anyone to help and I seriously doubt they would.

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  18. I'm a middle child, the peace-maker, so here goes.

    Let's say someone you know is rescuing a child from starvation, exploitation, and possible genital mutilation in Africa. Would you donate money to save that child and move her to this country? Mmm. Maybe? Maybe not.

    I do know that it's somewhat expected in some circles to either go on missionary trips or (if you are unable to go yourself) help others go. I'm not of that religious persuasion, so I just assume they have the Unsaved's best interests at heart.

    Either way, I don't get requests like this -- ever. Maybe I run with the wrong crowd.

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  19. Having financed my own daughter's international adoption, I agree 100% with you. I've seen the requests from others in the adoption community, and my reaction is usually "what a nerve!"

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  20. hope505: "brand new black baby?" Sorry, to me, THAT'S tacky.

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  21. I’d go further and say I don’t appreciate mail solicitations from friends for their walk/run/swim for heart/cancer/lung disease either. I am generous in my charitable giving. To charities I have vetted that have causes I believe in. And so I support them. Myself. I’d appreciate others doing the same. Not being a completely heartless cow I will gladly buy cookies/popcorn/wrapping paper from your CHILD. As long as the CHILD is doing the asking!

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  22. Huh...I've never thought about this before! I have heard of and seen some requests from young people going on missions and I've never thought of it in a bad light before, but I get it!
    In one way, I think asking people to help out with their fundraisers (where you actually get something for your donation) is okay - you can choose to say no but if you say yes, you actually get something back. But if someone is doing a mass mailing just asking for money...they should save the money they spent on postage and just call a few select people who love them a lot.
    I am not put off if a close relative sends out a plea for help for a fundraiser, but to help pay for them to adopt a baby? That's a personal choice! I would be irritated.

    I let my friends and family know about ways they can help with my drives for local nonprofits, because not all of them know how to donate-where to go, what to give-and those who don't, appreciate me helping them help others. I get a lot of people who don't offer anything, but it's never weird or anything.

    I have a coworker who adopted from China and she had a baby shower before she flew to China to meet him-but she asked for donations for the orphanage, not for presents for her own baby, and certainly not for money to help them adopt!

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  23. feels pretty darn creepy, if you ask me. I'd ignore the request.

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  24. I am right there with you. Foster a child right here in your own neighborhood. There are tons of them, they need homes and they need love. They might not be babies, but really.

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  25. to anonymous: I am a poet. I merely selected other words for "newly-adopted", "african" and "infant".
    You think that's tacky? Fine with me. I think you're uptight.
    * : )

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Spill it, reader.