A Facebook friend accused me of panhandling because I kept reposting my GoFundMe.com plea seeking financial help for my sick dog. Upset at the accusation from a man I had an interest in, I couldn’t stop staring at his words. The paragraph became a humiliating mess in front of me for all my over 1,000 Facebook friends to see.
And then I, a divorced mother, became upset at myself for being the panhandler. Yes, I admit it. A panhandler for the life of my love, a chihuahua mix named Ferrell. But still a panhandler. I conjured up horrid visions of me cleaning car windows by the FDR for nickels and dimes. I imagined myself spanging in front of Port Authority for spare quarters. And wanting to throw up, I hated myself even more.
I forgot the time it took to write the 1,000 word essay about what I felt was a hopeless situation, trying to pay the devastating vet bills on my own. As I heard the word panhandler repeat itself in a masculine voice in my brain, I didn’t think about the many hours of tearful writing it took to produce a piece I wish I never had to write.
And I thought about how I was a beggar who did not deserve the pet I was fighting for. An abused and abandoned dog my son rescued off of a Brooklyn beach. Ferrell only deserved the best and was just getting me, a woman alone, a writer who barely collects a paycheck while working hard to get that big break.
This dog has been with me for six and a half years. I fed him, walked him, adored him and yes slept with him. When he was sick, I got him the best medical care I could try to afford. Except this time, my guy’s illness became catastrophic. Vomiting, extreme thirst, seizures. Medical terms were being thrown at me, hypocalcemia, hyperparathyroid, steroid usage, an absorption problem. The list is actually longer. The doctors have said they’ve never seen anything like this before.
What was I to do? Tell myself, “you don't get the pet or anything else you can't afford,” as my now former Facebook friend cyber yelled. The dog was here, is here. All ten pounds of him, down from his husky sixteen. I did the best I could do for this beautiful boy. And I was not going to let him down. I was not going to let him die. I was not going to kick myself because even with my horrible finances I took in a living being who has been so good to me after he lived on the streets being kicked around by the world.
That Facebook friend said to me for all the world to see, “I am beyond offended and everyone I asked or showed your posts to, were as offended or much worse.” I felt like my underwear was being passed around. This was the same man who would kid me for having the same name as a famous person, and who went along with my silly musings about Chris Christie. Facebook friend had unfriended me before I got a chance to cyber dump him.
In that paragraph, this man continued railing against me by saying, “Funding sites were NEVER intended to be used for people who couldn't pay their bills.” I wanted to crawl up and hide, seeing myself as an evil, selfish, thieving woman. But what was I supposed to do? Watch Ferrell be miserable when I knew he could be saved?
Facebook friend told me I was “cyber panhandling.” He suggested that I should “stand out on a street corner.” And you know what, if I had the talents to stand on the street corner for my dog’s well being I would do it in a minute. I would stand out on a cold dark city sidewalk dressed in whatever is needed if that meant paying the bill to save the life of my love, my Ferrell.
Yes I panhandled. I panhandled my words. I panhandled an essay I wrote on gofundme.com. I did that instead of begging an editor to take the piece and pay me what I needed. Is there really any difference between the two?
It was my choice to put on my Facebook page whatever I wanted. Of course I hoped everyone would read the essay that took many hours to write, and financially contribute. The vet bills are staggering. Whether I collect a paycheck or not, I would need help financially. But I can’t blame people who did not contribute. It’s hard these days, even giving five dollars can be a hardship as that buys a day’s worth of food for one person. So it was the choice of my Facebook friends to decide if they wanted to read my words or walk by me.
It was heartening when a couple of my friends came to my defense. I pumped my fist when one said, “ Congrats xxxxx, you've won the worst human being on the face of the Earth award.” Another seconded the thought, and from my one room apartment, I screamed out, “Yes!”
And another accused him of cyber bullying when she wrote, “xxxxx, I showed your comment to some of the people I work with and they are all offended (and we don't even know you!).” She questioned his manners and told him to “get lost!” She made me smile, and I thank her for those words.
There were many generous people who came through for the love of a living being, who by the way looks like he will recover. They all gave beyond their means, whether it was five bucks or $500 or shares or encouragement. I thank all my friends for the support. And I hope one day to pay it forward.