Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Too Many Things

It's my favorite--and I mean favorite--whine. Naturally, I arrange my life so that I can indulge in it, frequently and legitimately.

The house is cluttered (and a mess), and there's just too damned much stuff. Everywhere. It's particularly easy to look at it and see everyone else's stuff that's strewn, abandoned, not put away. Or that is either part of the cause, or simply a symptom, of too many things that don't have a place they should be. Of course, there's mine, too.

Not, of course, that I purchased or permitted the purchase of any of that stuff. Or failed to purge my own.

The rest of life seems that way, too. The fellowship wants all the time I can commit. Not consciously, of course. It's in the form of "one more thing," and "since you're in charge..." (in charge? The idea that anyone is 'in charge' of a group of UUs boggles my mind. Leads, yes--that can be done, with a clever and idiosyncratic blend of goad, bait, humor and vision)... "could you...". Then there are all the good causes; all the things that I'd like to encourage to flourish, or just take root. New programs, special interest groups, and the like--some of which are things I might have committed myself to seriously a few years ago, when I (I like to tell myself) had more free time. Or things I might, in a few years, when I (I like to imagine) will have more time. Of course, I excuse myself. I have lots to do, so I'm making my presence known, showing that there's board approval (as if I embodied that...) for such things--and that's not really false. It's not necessary; none of these things require approval. In fact, the board's approval should be a moot point; as long as there's nothing that the board needs to formally disapprove, all's well.

So come July, I'll be able to withdraw from being a presence, because the new governance model is explicitly "permission-granting."

Right. Yeah, sure.

I have miles to go, before I sleep, as the poem goes. And a house I should really clean. No, more than that. I should make jihad, a great, personal struggle against the infidel clutter that's in my way, and the myriad projects I really need to complete.

But first... a meeting.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Milking Stones

It's budget time; we're taking on a DRE and a Music Director, along with all the normal "creeping costs" that help a budget to grow each year. We're also building a new building--and naturally--the first solid estimate came in way over all the carefully researched, conservative estimations that the project was approved on.

Another call for more money, piled on another.

To those involved in trying to make these things happen--the budgets that the congregation votes for, the building they approve--it feels like milking stones. They want it, but they don't want to pay for it.

Which is, of course, very human. Free would be nice, whatever it is. Of course, we don't really appreciate things that are free the same way that we appreciate and care for things that we really have invested in (money, or blood, sweat and tears. Or both). But we'd still like it free.

We shuffle figures. We find creative ways to spread the cost, to make clear how much we're getting for how very little. It's a shade embarrassing, somehow, in the midst of this, to look at some data from nearly three years ago. The large (but incomplete) fraction of the congregation that returned our survey indicating their income ranges; about 75% of households reported. Had only those folks donated 3% of their incomes then, we'd have exceeded our pledge target for this year by nearly 5%. But we've grown, and there's reason to think that the average and median incomes have risen....

I'm not sure where to go with this. I'm not interested in brow-beating anyone. But for all that "this" seems to mean to people, what they're willing to donate seems... well... painfully tight.

How much of this is the mindset of "no taxes" that the political culture's been aiming for? The idea that if we just cut the fat.... There's no fat. None. Amazing things are being done with absurd budgets. With $50 in the budget for Social Justice, we somehow raise and donate... oh, perhaps 20% of the actual operating budget to Heifer, to tsunami relief, to Gulf Coast relief, to flood relief in Transylvania, to supporting and assisting a New Orleans refugee family in resettling and transitioning out of poverty, as well as at least a dozen local charities.

But scraping up a few thousand dollars to pay for the music that's become so vibrant, that so many appreciate every Sunday (at least), that's hard?

What's it take to get people to pay to get what they really want?