Reading over one of my old blog entries from Around the Corner (I hope to get it back on track at its old web address, on April 29th or 30th, by the way), I stumbled on this Indian proverb from 2008. It captures an insight into a situation a colleague described.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The Situation

“Why tell us to travel and attend conferences elsewhere, while at the same time saying there is insufficient funds? Is it supposed to make us want to travel, or give the person permission to travel while secretly saying, ‘There’s no money.’ It’s crazy.” Her issue was with the school district who had implemented austerity measures, even though local admin were traveling to Boston for specialized training.

Presenting a Paper, Nope!

Her complaint reminded me of a situation I experienced when I was a poor classroom teacher. Allow me to share a complaint of my own…tt was one of my least favorite situations as a young married couple with two children was getting a paper accepted at an AERA conference. I was quite proud to get a paper accepted, and I was looking forward to presenting it.

The AERA conference would have been my first professional presentation of a research paper. The university office with graduate studies said, “We can defray the cost of the travel by $500,” which would have been perfect. But they couldn’t provide the money until AFTER I returned from the event. As you might imagine, I ended up being accepted to the conference but unable to pay for travel and lodging.

Whatever money I had at the time was tied up with children and other costs. Who has $500 to spend bills, two kids, a mortgage, etc.? I was quite disappointed. I had my heart set on going. I should have kept Epictetus in mind (but I hadn’t even heard of him back then!):

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” -Epictetus ;-)

Today, it wouldn’t be such a big deal. I am older, wiser, and probably could have figured something else to make the money. Back then, my younger self was worn out, tired, and unable to take on another money-making scheme to be away from home and young children. In fact, that was a negative to going…leaving my wife to handle the family alone. I took the wrong message from that experience, and didn’t bother trying to submit papers since I was too broke to travel. It’s one of those situations when you focus on cramming too much into a short period of time. I see it all the time now to other folks, and I realize now what the mistake I made was.

That’s why my colleague’s complain hit home. Why would an organization like a school district spend money to send someone anywhere while at the same time complaining there was no funding? All that did was make me think, “This is a waste of money to go present or do anything remotely. The real message from the school leadership?

‘I am telling everyone to travel, I know you’re going to turn it down because you want to save the budget, but I want it to appear as if it was YOU, not me, who made the decision to not travel.”

Anyone who does travel is actually a jerk, because they are taking money away from a strapped budget.

The Proverb

That’s why this proverb that I originally got from Vicki Davis back in 2008, is so apt.

“There is no point in cutting off a person’s nose and then giving them a rose to smell.” -Indian proverb

It seems appropriate to me. There’s money to travel, but you can’t have it until you get back. If you don’t have the money up front, you can’t travel, so it doesn’t really matter that the money IS available.