Coming to Peace with Begging
I hate asking for money. Whether it’s telling a friend she owes me for the book I picked up for her or divvying up the single check on a restaurant table, it is not one of my favorite things to do. I do it because it’s a matter of justice — not to mention, I usually need the money because I owe somebody else! And while it’s hard for me to ask people I know for money, it’s harder still to ask people I don’t know. That is, it was until I realized that Francis of Assisi’s tradition of supporting the life of his order with manual labor and begging was truly alive in my life today.
Sometimes organizations need my time, and sometimes they need my writing skills. Other times, they just need encouragement. More and more, however, organizations need me to pick up a phone and ask people for money.
Getting started on each fund-raiser takes a lot of initial energy for me, like the emotional energy it takes to dive into a lake of cool water. I feel my stomach drop each time I hear that a fund-raiser is approaching. People say to me, “You ask for money and get donations all the time,” but it’s never easy. If they would sit down with me, I would share with them that I still get that nervous little butterfly feeling, right before I ask for help.
The word “begging” is an uncomfortable word. It does take a bit of humility to admit what I’m doing. My personal involvement started with the Northwestern Ohio Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. I have MS, and my own sisters have generously responded to the MS Society here. For the past 16 years, we have had a team of anywhere from 7 to 24 sisters walking in early spring to raise money. Maybe it is luck, but I tend to think it is the Franciscan spirit of twenty-first century begging that saw us become the “Most Money Raised” team of the past ten years.
Yes, modern-day Franciscan begging still takes place. For me, the human contact is the underlying basis of why I get involved in fund-raisers. Whenever I see a sign-up sheet on a wall, I think, What an impersonal way to ask for help! When someone asks me if I will read for a liturgy, or bake cookies for a sale, or sell tickets at the door, I might think, Oh, boy, one more thing to do, but I am, at heart, honored to be included. An “ask” is relational; it is Franciscan to the core.