Last fall, when I was at a particularly low point, Richard and I were discussing options for improving my general state of being. I knew one thing for sure I needed, but that’s a story for another day, and I knew one thing for sure I wanted. I wanted a housekeeper. I was overwhelmed by the task of housework for seven people but felt like a domestic failure if I couldn’t, as a stay-at-home mom, maintain a tidy home of my own accord. I felt like only people who were wealthy and out of touch hired housekeepers. But gradually I came around to the idea, I knew that NYC is full of hard-working people who might not be otherwise qualified for employment. So we worked it into our budget, I texted my neighbor, who had previously recommended her housekeeper and asked for the contact info. For the sake of her privacy, I’ll call her Sonam. As part of my justification I framed the whole “housekeeper” concept to myself and my children like this: She is a woman who comes to our house twice a month, for four hours and helps me clean the house. This is true, we work together, and we clean the house all morning long. She’s terrific, she works hard, we listen to her Tibetan music, and when it’s done I feel restored.
Sonam has another job at a hotel doing housekeeping but for the last three weeks she hasn’t been put on the schedule. A few days ago she texted me asking if I could pay her more money because she wasn’t getting any income from her hotel job. I was completely conflicted. She has only been coming for a few months and even though I really like her, I wondered if I could trust her. Also, the amount I was paying her was already a bit of a stretch for our budget and I didn’t know if we were willing to sacrifice elsewhere to accommodate her request. But ultimately my gut told me that we had the money she needed and I really wanted to give it to her.
When I approached Richard about it I walked him through my thought process, and I’m sure he knew that my bleeding heart could not turn her down. He proceeded with caution, but he told me that we had agreed on a wage, it was what we felt we could pay, and then some nonsense about free markets. I argued that she was desperate and free markets are never really good for the poor. Then he did the Richard thing- and he came up with a Richard solution.
I think Richard thinks that that I’m the generous one, the one who can’t say “no”, the one donating and suffering and moaning about the injustices of the world. But Richard is generous too. Richard is generous when he can be deliberate about it, when he can account for it, when he can be pragmatic and conscientious. And because he is and does all those things consistently and reliably, he is generous often.
Richard pointed out that paying Sonam $20 more, twice a month wouldn’t amount to much for her. But if we could help her another way, if we could help her find another cleaning job, THEN we would be giving her a material financial increase. (Accountant speak for more better money.) So Richard marketed for Sonam, on our neighborhood Facebook page. I’m sure he did it professionally and skillfully, because he got a big response. This morning when she came to help me clean, Sonam informed me that she had scheduled four new homes for cleaning in the next week.
Before the success of Richard’s maneuvers payed off, I texted Sonam and told her that I wasn’t willing to pay her more right now. I appreciated her hard work, I would recommend her to anyone, and I hoped we could continue to work together and after she had been working for a longer period of time we could consider a raise. She handled it graciously and I told her that my husband and I would do what we could to help her. When Richard’s plan worked out, she was thrilled and grateful.
Maybe I pat myself on the back for being such an atruist, for wanting, REALLY WANTING, to give all the things to all the people. But out in the world are movers and shakers, making things happen by using their own talents and skills and working within their own limits and abilities. Here is my pat on the back to those kind of people, who aren’t suckers like I am. It would be such a big ask to demand Richard give a raise when he didn’t believe it was justified, I’ve guilted him about such things SO many times. But we each serve in our capacity and I’m so grateful for Richard’s common sense and methodical approach to life, and service, that both balances and challenges my own impulsive and reckless openhandedness.
And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
1 Corinthians 12: 4-6