I have a moral dilemma. Every day I read the newspaper (of course), and every day brings reports of Mainers suffering economically. Demand at food banks is way up; demand at diaper banks has skyrocketed. Did you know you can’t buy diapers with SNAP – aka food stamps? But diapers aren’t exactly optional; they aren’t a luxury you can cut from your budget. If you have babies or toddlers, you need diapers. The laws of nature and bodily fluids are simple and brutal.

There is so much need. And I have a savings account with $20,000 in it.

It’s supposed to be the down payment for a house. When I took a second job at Target for a little over a year in 2018, I saved pretty much everything I earned from it, because I had one dream. Homeownership. The American dream. Nothing fancy. A place out in the country with enough space for my dog to run around. If I’m really letting my imagination run wild, I imagine somewhere with a lake view or with a pond nearby. (For me. The dog hates water.)

But I don’t need the $20,000. I can live with my mom forever. Is it morally correct for me to keep my money when there are people here in Maine going hungry? Keeping my money in the bank feels selfish when I already have a roof over my head and folks are at risk of losing theirs.

I spend a lot if time worrying about this. It knots my stomach and makes my chest feel like there’s a rock on it.

I wonder if Sara Gideon feels this way. See, Sara Gideon ended her U.S. Senate campaign with $14,800,000 in her campaign account.

Federal election law allows that money to be used for charitable donations. And Gideon knows this, because in early December, she donated $350,000 to two charities in Maine: Full Plates Full Potential and Keep ME Warm.

Those charities do good work and that money will really help. A little goes a long way here in Maine. But it was only 2 percent of what she has in the bank.

Gideon still has fourteen and a half million dollars – that’s $14,500,000 – in the bank. And she hasn’t told anyone what she’s going to do with it. According to published reports, every attempt to contact her and her team has been met with radio silence. Will she donate more of it? Will she fund another campaign? Will she turn it into a super PAC? Start her own charity? Nobody knows. (She never paid her interns, I know that much.) Meanwhile, there it sits, doing nobody any good in one of the worst financial crises in living memory.

Families are going hungry. Parents can’t afford diapers. People will make the choice to go without heating oil in the middle of winter. There’s a moratorium on evictions right now, but the landlord lobby won’t let that stand. In the coming months, we could see homelessness spike. Deaths of our homeless neighbors are up 50 percent from last year. Fifty percent. Do you know how far $14,500,000 could go in Maine to alleviate those problems? Even a few million dollars could supply an awful lot of diapers. The 2020 Democratic Senate candidate has plenty of money in the bank for future political ambitions. But people are suffering right now. I don’t understand why anyone with access to millions of dollars wouldn’t be using it to help others. I really don’t. I would be shoveling it out. Of course, that’s probably why I’m not a successful politician. (And in case you think I’m picking on Gideon, if you know of anyone else in Maine with $14 million lying around unused in a bank account, please let me know and I will pick on them too.)

Income inequality is one of our country’s biggest problems; but I think it might be more accurate to call it “wealth hoarding.” The haves have too much, the have-nots too little, the getting-by middle class is eroding faster than Camp Ellis, and our so-called leaders apparently feel no urgency to help anyone but themselves. And I feel a responsibility to do what I can to help.

I keep thinking about the parable of the widow with her two mites (the lowest value coin in Judea). Jesus said her two mites were more than the bags of gold all the rich folks donated to the temple, because they gave from their abundance, but the widow gave all that she had to live on. Twenty thousand dollars is 0.14 percent of what Gideon has access to, but it is everything I have. Jesus’ glowing approval would be a nice reward and everything, but I also live with a widow who doesn’t have very many mites. She’s my mom.

She thinks I should keep my savings to secure my own future – like putting on your own oxygen mask before helping anyone else with theirs.

I don’t know what the right thing to do is, and it makes me want to scream.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: mainemillennial

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