In Her Own Words…
By Jenifer Fox
I hate being the gorilla in the room. I want people to see me as a different kind of animal, a smaller, less intrusive one with a few colorful feathers. Wings would be nice but not a beak. And please, no claws. I feel like I turn into a gorilla when the conversation turns to fundraising. People have such diverse reactions when the discussion turns to money. And an important part of my job is to talk about money, ask for money and manage money.
You know what energizes me? Value. More than anything, I love to see people feel that they are valued for who they are and what they bring to an experience. I love it when people feel as though they matter. When people are aware of the inherent worth they hold, they smile more easily, they laugh at the world in a carefree way and they sink into themselves in a way that allows everyone around them to feel comfortable.
Value has little to with money and everything to do with the kind of difference a person can make in the world. Everyone wants to be valued. I do the work I do because at its core, education is about helping people discover their true value. I am so energized by this that I don’t mind putting on a gorilla suit every now and then and asking for the funds that will allow our school to continue to do the good work of helping people become valuable and appreciated human beings.
You will soon receive a letter from me asking you to give to the school’s annual gift program. I hardly even know you and here I am sending you a letter asking for money! It’s okay. I first sent the letter to myself. I read the letter and felt a twinge of discomfort. Money is such a difficult subject. And money is never about money, instead, it’s usually about fairness. I grew up a middle child, so I know all about fairness. I learned early on that fair is not equal. Fair is about everyone getting what they need to feel valued.
So, I read that letter and I stepped up and gave a donation to the school. I have a million reasons why that makes me feel good and every one of them is connected to a sense of value: the value I see in each child, in every teacher and staff member, and in each family member who comes to the school. That sense of value is something I want to support every way I can. My donation allows me to feel an increase in my self-value as someone who can help out and does. From a practical standpoint, my donation helps pay the school’s bills and therefore allows us to keep doing what we do so well.
It’s not just part of my job to ask for money. Having the courage to do what must be done allows me to show up in my life as the human I want to be. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it. In both asking for and giving to something I really believe in, I discover meaning. I hope when you get your letter if you are inclined to see a gorilla, that at least she is wearing a pink tutu. And if you are someone who has discovered the gift inside giving, I hope you take a moment to revel in the reward you find there. And on behalf of everyone who values our school and our community, I thank you.