I want to support you! (As long as I don’t have to actually support you)

It’s been just over two months since I started my GoFundMe campaign at the insistence of others. I’d never have thought that it was polite to ask others for money, or that my cause would be worthy of accepting donations. But after speaking with a few close friends, they opened my eyes to seeing what could be, and that this might be the perfect way for my loved ones to support me. 

I understand that hearing about my disease has been really hard for some people in my life. You never want to hear that it’s your niece or cousin or friend or friend’s daughter that is going through something terrible. We hear about things on the news, or by word of mouth, that someone is hurt or sick or dying, and we are thankful that it doesn’t touch us. Grateful that something hard like that isn’t affecting our lives directly. Because if it’s affecting us then we have to react, we have to pull our heads from the sand and deal with something real.

When my disease started to get really aggressive, about a year ago, I would often hear how much people wanted to help me. Friends and family came out of the woodwork as they heard about my diagnosis either from my social media posts, or from Mom. Countless friends, and friends of friends, and moms friends were reaching out to both of us asking “What can we do to help?” and “We’ll do whatever we can to help Christine”,  or my favorite, “I wish there was a way I could support her”.

These comments and requests were what prompted my decision to start my donation campaign. It seemed to me that I had a large support group that wanted to help me, if only they were given a way. So I researched the various donation sites that were out there. Some better than others. A lot having a large percentage of donations taken out as fees, yuck. GoFundMe seemed the most respectable, had the safest online servers, and lowest fee rate. I promptly created an account, wrote my store, my reason for fundraising, and waited for it to be approved. That was another thing I liked about GoFundMe, that they had a selection and approval process to go through. Not just anyone could make a campaign about whatever they wanted. You had to have a legitimate reason for fundraising, and each campaign made went through an approval process before you were allowed to collect donations. I waited a patient 24 hours, and then was given the all clear green light. I was ready.

One of the great parts of having my GoFundMe campaign was that I could link it to my blog that was already doing so well and had a widespread fan base. I not only made a button from my website to my fundraising page, but also added a link to the bottom of almost every blog, just in case any of my readers may want to check it out. I marveled the first day I got a donation from one of my readers whom I didn’t personally know or had ever met. I was blown away by the kindness and generosity of strangers. I was convinced that I’d reach my fundraising goal in not time.

The goal I placed for my fundraising campaign was $25,000, and I settled on this number for two reasons. My biggest concern involving my disease was my upcoming housing issue. I had been living with two couples for over a year and my time was ending soon. I had exhausted all my other housing options and no one in my immediate family could help me. There wasn’t a couch, a bed, or living room floor for me and my cats to sleep on. I’d called homeless shelters and women’s shelters across the island as well as affordable housing projects for low income families. I was on a four year waiting list for Section 8 housing, and my case wasn’t dire enough for me to get into emergency housing. In other words, while I was definitely ill with a chronic condition, I wasn’t ill enough.

So I asked for donations for housing costs. Money to be used on renting a room or studio. Also because I received a very small amount of financial aid from the state, monies to be used on life neccessities… Transportation costs, toiletries, used clothing, and medical related bills. I had applied for Social Security a year ago, and earlier this year aquired a lawyer to help me with the application process. I’d been waiting on a hearing in front of a judge to determine when my benefits would start and she assured me it would be no longer than a year from the day she took my case. But February 2016 was a ways off, and I needed financial assistance now. The donations would help me pay rent for up to a year and a half if I raised the full amount, and get me through with basic neccessities.

Of course I was aware that I may not make my fundraising goal. $25,000 is a lot of money. But so many had asked to help, so many reaching out saying if only there was a way, I was hopeful and optimistic that this was the way I’d make it through. I wasn’t going down without a fight that was for sure!

The first month of campaigning was of course the best. I got the word out about my fundraiser on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and personal emails. My pain therapist, who had advised me to start my blog in the first place, encouraged me to print business cards. You could get them for mere pennies online, and wouldn’t they be a great way to advertise my fundraiser as well as my blog? So I found a coupon and ordered bloggers business cards for next to nothing, amazed at how pretty they turned out for being so damn cheap! And with online campaign and posting my link on my social media as well as my mom’s I received a good chunk of donations my first month.

I even received a very generous donation of $2,000 from a family friend after I had inquired about renting their ohana unit. The day I received that donation I cried for an hour. And the happy tears continued as I received more and more donations, mostly from people I hadn’t been in touch with for years. Old friends and their family members, old coworkers, friends from when I lived in different states, and countries, we’re sending me donations. I was floored. My mom and I were amazed by the generosity and kindness of these old friends from a life we lived forever ago. An old coworker of my mom had donated, after having not seen her for many years.  Not only had my best friend from when I was growing up in New Zealand donated, but also her sister and parents, all people I hadn’t seen in well over a decade. My heart was full with love and support.

Though all good things do eventually come to an end, and after two months or so, the donations started to taper off. I had raised $4400 and with that leased a small unit in town close to my doctors offices and hospital. Obviously that amount wasn’t enough for six months rent, not even close. But I needed a place to live, and after finding a rental agency actually willing to take a chance on someone without verifiable income, we leapt at the opportunity.  And hopefully, I’d be able to keep my campaign going and encourage more donations to be able to pay the second half of my six month lease. It’s all about optimism!

Though while all this was going on, the stress of the move, the financial strain, the slowing of donations, something started to occur to me and mom. I had started this campaign two months before on the insistence of friends and family who wanted a way to support me. Swearing up, down, and sideways at bbqs, family gatherings, and friendly outings that if there was a way to help me they would. Moms friends especially.  Ones  that she had leant on when she was stressed about not being able to house me or help take care of me on the bad pain days. “We support Chrisine 100%” they would say. “If only there was something we could do to help.”

Well we had opened that door for everyone. We had created an opportunity for those who wanted to help in some way to do so. And it didn’t have to be an insanely generous donation of $2000. I’ve received $10 & $20 donations frequently. I always stated in my fundraising updates that “every little bit helps”. Friends of mine that have similar financial situations, or are just down on their luck have given me $5, just to show that they want to help, that they would support me in any way they can. And please don’t take this as me being selfish or expecting people to give me money. I’ve been surprised this entire time that so many have opened their hearts and wallets to help me in some way. I’m truly blessed to have people who love me and support me.

But I’ve noticed a culture has started of people who promise things and don’t follow through. I was telling mom about it the other day. I used to have a boyfriend who would constantly promise that we would go out on big fun fancy dates. “This weekend, why don’t we get dressed up and go see a black and white at the old movie theatre, and then dinner afterwards?” Or, “I’m going to buy you that necklace you’ve had your eye on for months.” Except that he would never ever follow through. In his eyes, just telling me he wanted to do those things was gift enough. He would see me light up and be happy and his work would be done, so why follow through and have to actually make the effort? 

This has become more and more common in society, I have noticed. The promise without the follow through. The gift of saying you want to help, or do something nice, and basking in the contentment of another in that moment, and leaving it at that. This is what has happened to me concerning support from a lot of people. In the moment they tell me how much they want to help and support me, even going as far as acting thrilled that I’ve made a GoFundMe account, but you’ll never see a donation from them. And when they see me in the street with my cane, or run into me on accident at the store or friends bbq, the topic is quickly changed if it veers towards my health and fundraising.

This really saddens me. Not the loss of money or donation. I don’t need people to give me money to show that they care. There are so many other ways that they can support me during my illness. Rides to the hospital or pharmacy is one way, lending a comforting ear when Im feeling down, or even just visiting me to say hi and help me socialise if I’m on bed rest. Support doesn’t necessarily mean money. Unless of course, you’ve specifically told me you want to donate and then haven’t and have avoided me ever since. 

I just don’t understand behavior like that. I would never offer something that I wasn’t comfortable giving, or unable to give. Just because I’m sick doesn’t mean I’m unaware of my friends and family around me. I know people are going through hard times and struggles just like I am. And I gladly offer my support whenever I can give it. Even if it’s a much needed hug, or a cup of tea. Support is easy, as long as your heart is in it.

I want the support of people who love and care for me. Or at the very least want to help me, sincerely. But if you’re just looking for a way to make yourself feel better for a little while, feel like you’re a philanthropist, or a great friend, and then all you do is hide in a corner after the fact… I don’t want that kind of support. I don’t need it. I only want the support you’re actually willing to give.

If you like my blogs and/or want to help support me financially in my campaign to stay housed, please visit my donation page. Every little bit counts!

Christine Lilley’s Life Fund

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