"I dunno, Leanne," I mused. "This Pay-What-You-Can thing...I love it, in theory, but it’s not quite working the way I had intended.
"I wanted to focus on giving and trusting, instead of wondering how much I was GETTING from each transaction. I wanted the ideas and connections to be more important than the bottom line. I wanted to trust that I can give without fearing - that it will come back to me in other ways."
I had participated as a vendor at a festival the day prior, where my clearly lofty ideals had collided with...what?...reality? greed? insecurity? human nature? societal paradigms?
The PWYC concept was, in fact, well received by customers - I was the one who was still having difficulty. If I was really being honest with myself, I had still noticed how much people gave. I did attach value to myself based on what was offered. I argued with my inner judge to stop noticing, but with minimal effect. On the outside I was letting go...on the inside I was attached to a certain outcome.
So there I sat on the porch, reflecting on money, security, and the challenges in giving freely. It was easier, I rationalized, when people ordered cards online or in person to feel love, sharing, and I desire to help and give. In a festival setting I shifted almost unconsciously to 'getting' instead of 'giving'. Is there any way of changing that? Maybe if I...
“A DONATION BOX,” said Leanne, with finality, interrupting my thoughts. “You need a donation box.”
It seemed like it would just be another thing I had to source or make. It might pan out; it might not. It would require more explanation to customers.
I decided that if I came across a donation box before next weekend’s Cherry Park festival, I would use one. Maybe.
And yet...and yet....the night before the festival, amidst the flurry of packing tables and chairs and tent and equipment, I couldn’t get rid of the nagging suspicion that it WAS somehow a pretty good idea. I felt it, deep down, but I didn’t feel like making one.
“Damn it!” I finally cried, grabbing a saw, my toolbox, a drill, and some old wood from behind the shed, and I started cobbling together what would hopefully pass for a donation box.
Festival day came, and, much to my surprise (with my dread of crowds and extroverting), it more than panned out. The weather was fantastic, I had lots of help, my booth was on a corner, attendance was great...
And the donation box? The donation box???
Did it actually make a difference?
YES!!!! yes, yes, and yes.
By the end of that day, I tell you, I was ready to write articles glorifying the donation box, to gild the blessed thing, to put Leanne herself up on a pedestal of glory for suggesting it to me in the first place.
And here's why.
THE DONATION BOX ALLOWED ME THE FOLLOWING...
- it disengaged me from the money process – by no longer handling the money directly, I was freed up to speak with customers about the cards, about why the different payment structure, to chat with them about life and listen to their thoughts. It somehow became much more about connecting than selling.
- I couldn’t see how much money people were donating! So I finally stopped caring and worrying about it. I wasn’t secretly judging people for the amounts they were giving me and then hating myself for judging them, because I had no idea how much they gave. I felt a sense of release.
- People knew that I couldn’t see how much they put in. Though I don't know this for sure, I sensed that people who were putting in less did not feel embarrassed or judged or worried that they weren’t giving enough. On the flip side, no one could feel worthier for making a big donation. People just gave what they could give, or what felt right to them.
And what if someone put in $1 and took ten?? Worse, what if someone just walked off with my cards? And as I asked myself these questions, I realized this: it's ok. Yes indeed, it's ok.
Lord knows I have taken advantage of many PWYC offers in my life (and sometimes still do). I believe it comes from my feelings of scarcity, fear, and lack of trust: "I don't have enough so I have to maximize how much I get! Only I am in control of whether I come out ok!"
Truth is, we're not alone and we're not in control. But enforcing how much people give or take probably isn't going to change that paradigm, for them or for me. Perhaps letting go will.
Perhaps giving will help me let go and learn how to give.
And THAT might be why I need to do this. To learn how to give. Not in a way that lessens the value of what I do or who I am, but in a way that pushes me to trust that things are much bigger than what I see.
We all struggle with scarcity and control. We all have times where we are blessed to receive and blessed by giving. Having a donation box makes me no better or worse than anyone else in the world.
But what I can tell you is that this is how I was affected by a lowly wooden box on THIS festival day.
Just for a moment I was able to let go.
Now I just have to figure out how to do that in every other aspect of my life.