Frugal Generosity: Time Vs. Money

By , February 16, 2016

At the end of last year, in talking about frugality, I mentioned, but did not elaborate on frugal generosity (see Feeling Frugal: It’s All in the Attitude). Events in my life at the moment make this a convenient time to expand on that assertion.

A rusty old saw of our society states that “time is money.” One way that this proves particularly true is in charity. Compare the number of people who contribute money rather than time to a cause or project. While money certainly helps any cause, sometimes the commitment of time and effort proves more valuable.

The key to contributing to society comes down to contributing in a way that one’s resources allow. Some give time, some give money, many give both.

For us, the choice seems obvious. Our lifestyle makes us money poor but time rich. Because we don’t spend the majority of time making money, we can’t support a cause by contributing funds as easily as we can commit time and effort toward the project.

Right now, I’m proving my point as well as I can. As you read this, I’m driving to Anchorage with a handful of Haines High School students to attend the State Drama, Debate and Forensics (DDF) Tournament.

We will drive for two days to reach Anchorage, traveling north out of Alaska, through Canada to re-enter Alaska far to the north, then turn south to reach our largest city. Anchorage lies about 514 air miles to the north. Our trip will cover about 756 road miles each way. We’ll attend the tournament for 3 days, then spend another 2 days traveling home.

As you know, I don’t have a high school student. Aly, whom we home schooled, graduated from college last year (see Aly’s Graduation Day). I don’t have skin in this game, as the saying goes.

Nevertheless, I learned months ago that our local high school has a chaperone crisis. The cross country team missed an away meet simply because they couldn’t find chaperones to accompany them on the trip.

Unlike the Lower 48, extracurricular event travel in Alaska requires an inordinate amount of time. The meets and other events, which may last only one evening, can require days of travel to reach. As hard as this is on students, it’s worse on the adults required to accompany them to provide safety, logistical support, and adult guidance through the events. The parents of students, who comprise the most natural pool of chaperones, have difficulty taking time off from work to play this role.

I saw an opportunity to serve the community. While I stay busy minding my own business, as it were, I have the luxury of setting my own work hours, and can take time away, particularly during the school year.

I went to the school and volunteered as a chaperone. I didn’t imagine I would be that useful, being an adult with no ties to the school. These days, one may as well brand “Pervert” on my forehead and be done with it.

However, the school’s Activities Director remembered me from when Aly attended social functions at the school. I have no criminal record, at least some parents know me, and I have the time to travel.

Not only that, but I traveled around Alaska in high school. I know most of the tricks for getting around the chaperones. I doubt anyone trying to get past me will find it easy.

This trip is my first “job” chaperoning. I know I wasn’t the first choice, but I’ve already heard the relief of parents who would have had to interrupt their work schedules if I couldn’t help.

I’m not curing cancer, I’m not filling sandbags at a breached dyke, I’m not rescuing avalanche victims. But, I’m helping out in a way that money can’t. I’m contributing in a way that my resources allow.

As a side note, I had little opportunity or topics to cover the blog for the duration of the trip. I hope to keep to my every-other-day posting schedule, and Michelle will post at least one essay, but things may grow a bit ragged over the next week. I’ll also try to avoid any “I really miss home” whining posts. If you see gaps here, it’s temporary.

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