Saturday, April 11, 2009

Those Parking Spaces Close to the Building

I've been thinking lately about our Catholic mission and some of our fundraising practices. With the economy dipping and all of us fearing late tuition payments and falling enrollments the importance of annual appeals and third source fund raisers becomes even more critical.

One common practice is to auction off certain naming rights or privileges. We frequently auction off annual naming rights for our gymnasium and of course the two parking spaces closest to the front doors. I don't know why but as of late these practices seem to bother me. Maybe it's because I recently finished E.F. Schumacher's "Small if Beautiful: Economics as If People Mattered" (It's a fabulous read and I highly recommend it) Maybe it is just the effects of a long Lent. I wonder though what message it sends when the first impression we often make to our visitors is here are the parking spaces for the rich children or here is the gym named for the local business. We claim our mission is to make the world a better place - where the Gospel message radiates the love of Christ through our own lives to those around us. I wonder how this practice helps accomplish the mission.

Philanthropy is great and I don't mean to discourage our community members from supporting our mission with their donations. We all know these families could just as easily spend these dollars elsewhere. Obviously we are thankful for all the gifts we receive. We need their support but I sometimes wonder where the line needs to be drawn. What if we put a sign over the closest parking space that said "Reserved for the Least Among Us." It would be interesting to see who takes the space at the next sold out basketball game. I suppose in some ways this type of giving and public naming might encourage others to give - a type of positive peer pressure.

We are gearing up for a building campaign and these issues will become critical over the next three to four years of our school's existence. I suppose it is to dreamy to imagine the science wing donated to the anonymous giver or the "we give because we care" performing arts center.

I realize I am a total hypocrite as I recently purchased at my local grade school's auction the first rows for my sons' upcoming first communion. The price was only $48 but then again that number rings a little too close to 30 pieces of silver. I've been assured it isn't simony to sit in the front row but then again somehow I feel like one of those money changers Jesus came chasing after.


Ed Allen said...

Charlie, as usual a great post. And I get what you are saying completely. I wonder who would park in that "least among us" space?

The financial support that we Catholic Schools receive from benefactors is essential to our existence. But we exist because of our faith and the teaching s of Jesus. What would he think? I think of the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus instructs that a good deed should be done in secret. hmmmm

I assume you will let us know if the Good Lord shows up and chases you out of the front row! Kidding, of course.

Lots to think about from this post.

Beth Lloyd said...

And I thought Red Sox tickets were hot...didn't realize first communion pews were just as big!

A thought provoking post...It is always hard when you step back from what you are doing to look at the bigger picture. We all need to be reminded to keep living our lives in the spirit of Christ. I would love to see you reserve the favored parking space at your school for the least among us. I am sure the money will find it's way to you via other avenues.

Ms. P. said...

Charlie, I always thought the auctioning off of the "ace" places was pretty creative, but I agree that it is for the wealthy students. However, those are the families that we want to attend the auction. It would be cool to see someone buy a spot and gift it away to someone else. Perhaps the "ace" place should be kept for Jesus...since He's the reason for our school...

Bill Farren said...

Great post Charlie. Reminds me of the following story: A guy shows up early to work in a large parking lot. Instead of parking near the doors, he parks in the far corner. When asked by another co-worker why he would do such a foolish thing, he replies that since he's early, he doesn't mind getting in a little exercise. And to boot, it frees up a closer space for someone who really needs it--for someone who's late to work. He said he'd hope someone would do the same for him for when he was running late.
All in all, it's a feel-good story about win-win situations, cooperation, positive thinking and being considerate. Maybe the best parking spots are the ones furthest away, like you said.

Charlie Roy said...

@ Bill
Thanks for the comment. That's a simple profound story. I remember being with a friend in high school. It was around 11:30 PM or so on a Saturday night and we were racing home to meet our curfew. On a two lain road as he pulled up to a red light he moved to the left lane. Keep in mind there wasn't any traffic around this time of night. I asked why he felt the need to so abruptly change lanes as he approached the red light. He said he didn't want to make someone wait to turn right on the red light. If he was stopped in the right lane they'd have to wait. To this day I wonder how someone became so thoughtful and considerate of others.

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