When I was still swimming and thinking about music all the time (so, 1988ish), I had a favorite song for middle distance freestyle sets. The cadence of Subdivisions by the supremely literary Rush was the best for getting me through. The words were of secondary meaning in the pool, but I recently recalled them for their poignant words:
Conform or be cast out . . . be cool or be cast out
Now, the song is about high school drama and American conformity generally. High school drama is rarely good (unless you caught me in Up The Down Staircase in 1983 at Western Branch High School—I played the part of the girl who threw herself out of the school window and therefore was out before intermission), but American conformity may or may not be.
There are subdivisions that are good—drawn units in which behavior is confined. I draw a few subdivisions in my life, one of which I want to discuss here.
I draw lines about where I give money. There are many great places to give money, more than my middle class lifestyle could ever fund. So, in some ways, in the language of old Catholic thought, I live the “scandal of the particular”—it is scandal in this fallen world that we have to pick and choose good causes to support. But that is the world in which we live.
That being so, my family has decided to give away 10% of our income to our local church community. We made this commitment about 10 years ago. To be sure, we’ve fallen off the wagon, we’ve gotten in arrears, but we’ve stayed committed to this. Once, before a trip to Disney World, I drove up to my church late at night to drop off a check because I was afraid that left to my own devices, I would spend my giving money at the Happiest Place on Earth.
Past that, we also choose a few other places to give money. We’ve selected Operation Smile, World Relief and 410 Bridge. My children also follow the 10% rule, and separately give additional money to places of their choice.
In the world of subdivisions, then, there are good causes to which I don’t contribute. I won’t get into where I won’t give money, because there are places that do good work but I don’t agree with the way they spend all of their pennies.
For this reason, and because I am attempting to draw margin more into my life, I don’t “do” everything that comes along.
I’ve loved watching my many friends do the ice bucket challenge. My mom died from an ALS-like condition. It warms my heart even as it freezes your nose. But I won’t be doing it. I have reasons beyond money, and I think that should be respected. And it has been by my friends who have issued a challenge.
But I’ve seen a lot of calling others out on social media for not participating. I think that’s a bad precedent, and it sets a tone that if you don’t participate or give as coerced, you’re a bad person. Maybe you are, but it’s not because you don’t participate in the charity du jour.
So, subdivisions, like limited resources, are a reality in this world. Some are good, and some or not.
Where do you draw yours?