Upper-middle-class* middle-aged white privileged male asks the internet for help (or the messy art of asking)


160501 All-Day Breakfast—The messy art of asking—#200

I recently asked for help on the internets. I shared it on social media. It made me feel ashamed and exhilarated at the same time. It also made me feel humble and privileged to know friends and strangers with money to burn.

* BTW, I’m not exactly sure what UPPER MIDDLE CLASS even means, but I used to hear the term a lot as a kid, and maybe it’s still used? Or is it called high-income earner now? Who knows. All these terms are offensive. Sometimes I have money and sometimes I don’t. Right now, I very much don’t.

Yeah, I have guilt. Male guilt. Age guilt. White guilt. Sometimes money guilt. It depends when you ask me.

I try to give away all the stuff that matters: love, support, ideas, advice, contacts, speaking, teaching. I haven’t charged for any of that stuff.

I make a decent living when I have work. When I don’t have work, things tighten up and get stressful. But I’ll never end up on the street while my extended family is alive.

I am of Dutch and Austrian ancestry, but apparently I have traces of Neanderthal in my DNA. Does that make me any less white? I try to imagine so, but there are no pictures of our low-brow cousins. And you can still see my veins under my skin when it’s bright outside.

I am male, but raised a feminist—does that mean anything? I know I’ve been a chauvinist at times, and a male prick at others, but I continue to work on finding a balanced approach to biology, chemistry, self-awareness, and mind-over-matter.

I’m forty-four years old and counting. That makes me young for Boomers and old for twenty-somethings. I guess that’s why it’s called middle-aged?

So I have a huge repair bill I cannot afford right now. Some day I will be able to afford it, but not now. And I’ve asked the internet for help. This makes me feel very uncomfortable. Conflicted.

Part of me things it’s ridiculous and embarrassing. My house broke and I need to fix it. Insurance won’t cover it.

It’s a place our family uses to invite guests, entertain, and share the countryside with. So I wrote a pithy piece on GoFundMe about the evil racoons who caused this damage in an attempt to garner donations.

Would the money be better spent on disaster relief, ending poverty, supporting refugees, saving the planet? Of course it would. But people don’t spend all of their money on noble causes. They spend some of it on movies and video games, and the occasional fancy dinner. They buy music and phone cases and earrings. They buy chocolate bars and running gear. And if they have an extra buck, why not pitch it toward one of my goofy rewards to help me pay for a new furnace, what’s the harm?

I suppose the harm is in thinking that I deserve it, that I’m entitled to money just… because. My friend Shawn Pucknell told me flat out: it’s a tough sell to ask for money when you have two homes. Ab-so-fucking-lutely.

Hey, nobody owes me anything and nobody should ever feel sorry for me. If you have money to spend on better things, than this is not for you. But I’m going to swallow my pride and at least ask: if you hate racoons and want to make sure they don’t win at destroying my house, this might be the philanthropic inspiration you’ve been looking for. If not, carry on.

People like to pay for interesting experiences and stories. So here’s my story. If it moves you, then it moves you. If I’m just another dude pulling at your wallet, check out https://www.canadahelps.org/en/ for greater places to be generous in the bigger Canadian landscape.

Here’s my full GoFundMe.com pitch:

My name is Jason Theodor. My family has a place up in Prince Edward County. The old farm house is older than Canada(!) built in 1820. When my daughter graduates from high school, this house will be 200 years old.

The kids love running around outside — climbing trees, tending to the garden (sort of), helping with the bees (we have a small hive), and spotting animals in the rushes (coyotes, ducks, geese, frogs). It’s so much healthier than being on their ‘devices’ 24/7.

Both my wife and I have had some close calls in the last few years (a stroke, cancer) so we consider this house our backup plan, our retirement home, our lifeline in case of the zombie apocalypse.

But it has recently come under attack by masked agents of evil — racoons! They have moved rocks around the foundation and squeezed into the crawlspace under the house. From there they accessed the unfinished basement where they proceeded to start a cascade of failures that can only be described as catastrophic.

They began by crawling around on all of the equipment, knocking the cover off of the water softener, turning off the UV filtration system, and tearing up the insulation.

Somehow they turned off the oil supply switch to the pumps which send hot water to the radiators in every room. This happened just a few days before we returned to a freezing cold house. As we looked around we realized all the radiators had been cracked by frozen water.

This caused the boiler to overheat and die. This caused the temperature of the water to plummet during one serious deep freeze (one of the few this mild winter). This caused water to freeze in the pipes, expand, and burst every radiator. It cracked and heaved the floor in the addition. It caused water to leak through the ceiling of the living room. This meant we had to ‘bleed’ the house of water. No heat, and no water until repairs.

Our first real repair estimate came in at twenty-thousand dollars! This is because of so many repair factors: replacing a boiler is expensive. Replacing old radiators (seven of them) is expensive. Fixing floor pipes, wall pipes, ceiling pipes, damaged electrical, damaged water heater, damaged pumps, damaged filters, damaged everything costs and costs and costs.

So what about insurance, you ask? Great question! I’m not exactly sure what insurance is for, except to make insurance companies rich. After taking two weeks (all the while we had no heat or water) they offered to pay for a patch of water damage to the ceiling drywall that was about six inches wide and two feet long — AFTER we paid the $2K deductible.

Apparently failed equipment isn’t covered, just damage caused by the water. And since we caught the water early and bled the pipes, we saved our drywall but negated any chance of payment. Go figure.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have twenty thousand dollars lying around. I checked.

Right now we are trying to come up with creative ways to fix the place, working with local tradespeople to find more affordable solutions. But no matter which why you slice it, it’s expensive.

If you hate debt and insurance companies and ESPECIALLY racoons, please help us out if you can spare a few bucks.

If you love the country air, kids playing outside, and a zombie apocalypse rendezvous point, please help us out if you can spare a few dollars.

It means everything to our family to get this old homestead back up and running again. Any help will mean the world to us and our family.


So, is it too much to ask? Does this offend you? Does it inspire you? I’m really curious, because money always opens or closes something: doors, wallets, old wounds, grudges, opportunities…

What does money open/close for you?

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