The Real World Sounds Cool

Last Tuesday night. Church council swan song. Final meeting. The topic. How to pay for an $80,000 roof repair. A 5 year loan with slightly higher monthly payments or a 10 year with slightly lower ones.

A consensus builds around the 10 year. Then I recommend the five because I argue we need a sense of urgency to pay it off before another expensive, unplanned for problem surfaces. Given our aging building and our feeble finances, we can’t fend off overlapping fiscal crises.

I add that if our next administrator is “on it” like our exiting one, then the 10 year would be fine since there are no pre-payment penalties, but who knows whether he or she will be equally vigilant when it comes to monitoring our strapped budget.

That’s when I was introduced to the “real world”.

In unison, a few people said, “But ‘closely monitoring the church’s finances’ is on the new and improved job description.” In other words, don’t worry about it, it’s a done deal.

My internal thought was the same as my Millennial daughter’s recent text to me, Hahahahahaha. I wish!

A good friend of mine who sells hair care products for a living is always exasperated with me. I mean always. Tenure, sabbatical, self-actualization, all trigger words. His constant refrain is that I don’t live in the “real world”. The “real world” is one where you have to continually find more customers in order to make monthly and quarterly sales targets. Or get fired. In contrast, I just show up at my classroom and teach my ass off for whomever appears on my class list. I’ve always dug my unreal world, but in his mind, it’s a grossly inferior place. An aggravating anomaly.

I have to confess, in my unreal world, job descriptions haven’t mattered much. Few in the unreal world reference their job descriptions with any regularity and there’s always some sort of gap between what’s written and performance.

So the real world really intrigues me. It would be quite convenient to know everyones’ work performance matches their job descriptions. Much cleaner and more predictable than the messiness of my unreal world.

 

How to Tap People’s Generosity

Through detailed, well told personal stories of individuals dealing with identifiable difficulties.

Exhibit A—The grandmama bus monitor who endured bullying at the hands of marauding middle schoolers. The national media shined their light on her plight and a few days later people, moved by her predicament, had sent her $650,000+.

Exhibit B—The young East L.A. boy who built an arcade at his dad’s auto supply storefront. No one knew or cared until one person told his story on-line. Next thing you know his college education was paid for by an army of people moved by his creativity and lack of business success.

Exhibit C—A Mexican-American Seattle resident whose story was told—as part of a series on the recession—on Seattle’s National Public Radio station. Raised in a poor Mexican family. Emigrated to the U.S. Got an engineering degree and a good job with a Seattle firm. He helped his firm determine how much buildings would cost to build. When the recession hit and building ceased, he lost his job. So he opened a taco truck with his brother, but it was a struggle. Until his story was told on the radio. The next day a long line of customers weaved around the block. By mid-afternoon, they had run out of food. While the taco truck took off, other listeners offered him good jobs. In the end, building picked back up and his original employer offered him his job back. He took it.

Forget generic pleas to fight ageism, or the cost of higher education, or economic dislocation. People want to feel like their donation is helping a specific person.

The problem with this of course is that the most vulnerable people, who are the most in need, rarely have their stories told by the media.

A related question is how can governments, whether local, state, or the federal government, leverage this element of human nature to get people to see the potential benefits of selective tax increases? Governments would be well served by telling compelling stories of how individual people, families, or communities benefit from public spending.