Sunday, January 21, 2007

Charging Fees vs Being Charitable Until It Hurts

Oh, how we've been misled on this. I want to be charitable but sometimes people don't see the difference between "feeling poor" and actually not having enough. Other times people really do get into tough binds and think that justifies trying to shame someone into giving them what they want.

In the past I had this experience:
"Oh, I have it rough as [a member of such and such discriminated against group]. I can't possibly afford to pay such an extravagant rate for this [competitively-priced] healing workshop that you're offering. Can I get a scholarship?"

And, being the caring wanting-to-do-the-right-thing individual that I am, I said "Of course." Weeks later I had the opportunity to visit the home of one scholarship recipient in particular and found out that at the time I gave her the scholarship she owned a beautifully decorated condo while I was struggling to pay my rent!

Now as a counselor/healer team we get the same healer specific discrimination. It's okay for almost every other professional under the sun to charge the rates they do--no one asks my computer professional housemate to cut his rates for "charitable" purposes. But every healing arts professional I know is expected to shortchange themselves to prove how loving and caring and worthy they are to be seen in a positive light.

On the other hand, I have received scholarships myself when I was in a "poor-me" situation myself. I thought I deserved it. I thought it was right. And then I felt ashamed. It actually reinforced the negative attitudes I was carrying when I got what I needed and didn't give anything back. But that's not something I thought to offer at the time and my scholarship provider didn't think to offer it to me.

So I went down a different track. I vowed to find a way to pay for the services I valued.

When I had a like-valued service I, at times, have been able to arrange a reasonable trade. But more often than not I knew my service providers preferred to be paid so I'd save up, see my doctor, my chiropracter and my beloved acupuncturist once in a long while, go to the library and read up on what I wanted, and developed tools to help myself. To be honest, if I had had the money to hire the professional services I provide now...I would never have learned the skills I'm using to help other people with in the first place.

So now I'm on the other side of the fence. I know there are situations when people ARE forced into requiring constant care and CAN'T give back at all and times when it really makes a big difference to give someone a helping hand. I'm grateful for the ones I have received and that means I'm willing to do the same. But for some reason I forget the importance of asking people to find some other way to give back.

I try to treat people the way I want to be treated myself. When I ask a person for services I respect their right to be paid a decent rate for what they do. I don't use the words "cut me a break" as if the person I'm talking to is overcharging for what they do. If they were willing to put in the hours, weeks, months and years it takes to be able to provide the type of services I need they deserve to be paid for it. They went to school or they learned it the long hard way through years of experience in the field. Either way, they paid for those skills...and I did not.

Paul and I have paid our dues in the fields we're in, too. We didn't just wake up with the ability to listen well on the psychic level and heal people. We've needed to learn how to use those skills appropriately. We needed to supplement our natural abilities with schooling and we've had to undergo a lot of training outside the classroom as well. Years and years and years worth.

Giving until it hurts vs not wanting to be charitable at all is something I've been hurt around. But there's more than one way to provide a healing service. Nobody is paying to read this and I KNOW there is more than one healer in Santa Cruz who has been feeling down because of this very test. Today I'm expressing the down side of starting a new healing practice in Santa Cruz. But, to be honest, we've developed a cadre of repeat clients who love what we do and never question what we ask to be paid. Focusing on how frightened we are about what it takes to succeed -- and complaining about those who feel so powerless in their own lives that they mirror us by saying they couldn't possibly afford to pay for we do-- is a bit of a trap. Better to recognize how we sabotage our own practice by believing WE can't afford to pay for the help WE need to get by--decent advertising, for example, or the new office furnishings we put off on buying. Better to shift our OWN thinking and start to attract what we really need.

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