Given the events of the past week, I suppose I should write about a huckster, a tyrant, a tool bag. After all, that’s what he really wanted all these years: my attention. Your attention.
I can’t do it.
Instead, I’m going to tell you a little about Madison Taylor-Hayden — someone you’ve likely never heard of, a woman who just wanted to finish her nursing degree.
Taylor-Hayden, who has a full-time job and a full-time mission, was struggling to afford her final semester of nursing school through the University of New Mexico. She decided to try something that didn’t come naturally — she told her story through a GoFundMe page, humbly and eloquently asking whether people would be willing to help her reach her goal for $4,250.
It’s actually half the amount she needs; the other half is coming out of her own pocket.
“I did it out of desperation, a shot in the dark,” she said Wednesday. “It was, ‘Hey, if you can help ...’ “
In a sign of hope for all of us, a lot of people pitched in. Taylor-Hayden, 31, is close, within-$900-close, to finding the money she’ll need to complete the fall semester and continue on a path that will help her make her own contribution.
“I try to send thank-you cards to everybody who contributes,” she says. “But I mean, thank you doesn’t really cover it. I’m just so overwhelmingly grateful for those who donated, who shared and reached out to me.”
On her GoFundMe page, Taylor-Hayden noted her 20s “were spent doing things that were great for my karma but bad for my bank account: service trips, years with AmeriCorps, being a social worker, etc. I got myself into a lot of debt and managed to work my way out, but I’m one of those tragic millennials without a sturdy savings account.”
A lot of her friends — or friends of friends; that’s the beauty of crowdfunding — seem to understand.
“Maddy is amazing and we need people like her in the medical and social work field!” wrote one after donating $50.
“Any friend of Natalie is a friend of mine!!” added another.
The GoFundMe phenomenon, of course, is great, but there’s also something else going on, particularly in Northern New Mexico. It’s something here in which people can take immense pride.
In one of the darkest years anyone can imagine, the generosity that exists in the greater Santa Fe area has never been more breathtaking.
Before Christmas, motivated more by a need to write a column about the holiday than the expectation it would make a difference, I wrote about a toy drive that needed major help from the community. What the hell? It could help make a few kids’ holidays a little brighter.
Help and money monsooned down, in big, gushing sheets. The drive not only reached its goal, it found even more kids to help.
There’s more: This newspaper’s Empty Stocking Fund, which provides financial assistance to people who desperately need help through the holidays with the little things that make all the difference in the world, has shattered records, not to mention imaginations (thank you, thank you, thank you).
And so, here is Madison Taylor-Hayden.
Investments never promise guaranteed returns, but Taylor-Hayden seems like a good bet. A transplant, she loves it here like a native. Since arriving in Santa Fe, already armed with a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Minnesota, she’d taken an interest in helping the city’s homeless population and homeless issues.
Her eventual goal, she said, is to use both her nursing chops and social work experience to help the homeless at the ground level — a place where big systems don’t reach or can’t see.
Taylor-Hayden has plenty of experience with the homeless community, having served as a staffer and volunteer at the Interfaith Community Shelter at Pete’s Place for many years.
“I started off volunteering,” she said, “but one of the main workers there, he died, and they were desperate for help. They put me on the payroll because I knew what I was doing. And when I started working there, I couldn’t give it up.”
The job became a mission, the mission became a purpose. The purpose provides hope.
The kind of hope a tyrant could never understand.