currency

Yesterday, as part of Interdependence Days,  I talked about writing grants and getting funding, or trying to. It’s been a while since I’ve found myself thinking in that mode – invoking logic models and outcomes, working through the particulars of setting up a budget by cost center. I had spent the morning writing summaries of case studies for someone writing a book about brand implementation (which I only very recently learned was something one could write about), and in the afternoon, I prepared food for the evening’s workshop. My days take on these odd shapes now. Not unpleasant. A bit unpredictable, though.

Someone asked a question about getting money from funders and giving it directly to people – in the form of cash – who could benefit in immediate, tangible ways. This is not without precedent. There was an organization in Boston set up to do this in a particularly blighted neighborhood. The group operated for several years, but then faltered, and eventually had to disband.

I referenced this story in my response, but realize, as I am writing this now, that I mis-remembered its point. The way I told the story last night, it was about the organization failing to maintain its relationship with its donors and funders. But now, as I am thinking about it, I remember that the point of the story was trust. About idealistic people going into a neighborhood and spreading money around, without committing to its development long-term, without developing sufficient trust among the residents of the neighborhood, with its formal and informal leaders. I can’t recall all the details now, but I do wish that was the story I had told. I wish that was the conversation we had had.

The question also made me think of the artist Sal Randolph and her work with currency. I have had to think a lot about money and value in these last months of working freelance. About valuing my time. Taking on work for less than my hourly rate for various reasons. And of course, there is so much that I do, that I have always done and will continue to do, for free.

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My son was not quite a year old when I took the job running a small grantmaking agency. I worked all the time. I attended events at night. I was never not thinking about work. I spent five years at that pace.

I left full-time work last summer and so had a few weeks of unstructured time with him at home and I think those shapeless days – our spontaneous field trips, our train rides into Boston, our lazy walks around the neighborhood, or down the hill to throw rocks in the river, or to the beach in the late afternoon – changed and deepened our relationship significantly. Just to have the time to be in each other’s company. Without goals or objectives, without schedules. The shared experience of living.

But I am not here to make pronouncements about about "balancing" work and parenting. Or about the choices that women make.

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I took my son with me last night, and he set himself up in the corner of the room, enthusiastically using up all his “screen time” in one, uninterrupted session. Earlier, we had walked over to the bakery for a bagel and while we walked, he told me about all the characters in the game he was playing. He listed each in detail – their capabilities, how they interacted with other characters, their vulnerabilities. Occasionally, he would pause to ask, “Do you want me to tell you about ____?”

I have often joked that when kids are at certain ages, being with them is sort of like stumbling onto an endless podcast – except that you can never adjust the volume and you can never unsubscribe. There are times when the chatter is relentless, the stream of narration of all that is in their little heads.

“Do you want me to tell you?”

Yes, my love. Absolutely.