Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Gifting Tree

Several years ago I was picked up in a dark non-descript car and transported to a secret location.

When I walked into the room I discovered that I had been taken to a secret club, and some of the women I knew were there. My friends, my neighbors, my children's teachers, women in my church. There was food on the table and an air of festivity that happens when a group of women get together.

After some mingling we all sat down in the living room to watch the super secret presentation.

We were warned to be careful who we told about this. Husbands were fine and so were possible potentials.

It was called "The Gifting Tree."

To become part of the gifting tree you were to take five thousand dollars out of you bank, make sure it's in cash, wrap it up as a gift with a bow, and then arrange a time for lunch with the woman at the top of your gifting tree. You would then exchange gifts. You would give her the five thousand dollars and she would give you a small token of appreciation.

She would receive this gift from the eight people at the bottom of the gifting tree, and then she could go on her way or join a new gifting tree. Once you have given your gift, you then get two other people to join and have them deliver the same present to the new top star of the tree. By this time the original tree would have split in two to make room for more people. Those people that you recruit then each recruit two more people. As each star receives all her gifts, the tree splits in half and everyone moves up. The tree is never deeper than eight people wide.

2                3
                  4       5       6        7                    
8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 

Receives gifts and leaves or joins another tree
2                3
                       4    5        6        7                    
        8 9 10 11  12 13 14 15 
2 and 3 are now two trees with 2 and 3 at the top. The bottom row must each recruit two new people so that eight people are on the bottom. And so on and so on and so on.

The theory is that eventually you will make it to the top and in turn receive eight gifts of five thousand dollars. So basically you would have given an investment of five thousand dollars and depending on how quickly your tree grows you will end up with forty thousand. You can then join another tree, reinvesting five thousand, or leave.

This of course was not a pyramid scheme. This was an exchange of gifts. There's a difference you know.

My neighbor was able to do renovations to her house because she made it through once and she was trying again. In fact, she was the presenter.

Not only was it a gift exchange, but it was a woman's empowerment gift exchange. It allowed women to have her own nest egg to start up a business, leave an abusive marriage, have a down payment on a house, or splurge as she wished.

We were helping and supporting each other.

We couldn't tell anyone because if the police found out then it would be mistaken as a pyramid scheme and shut down. And men want to do that to women. They want to shut us down.

After all, men have been doing this for years. Lawyers in fact.

And so I thought about it. I had some money coming to me. I liked and trusted the women in the group. I could use the money since I was in a bad marriage and wanted to get out. It seemed like the perfect solution. A little scary, but things worth doing are scary. Besides, men are always trying to keep women down. I liked the idea of helping other women. And I didn't see anything wrong with it. It's my money, I can give it to whomever I wanted to. Not only that but I liked going to the meetings. They were fun. And the women in my church were involved, so how could it be wrong?

So I did the next step. I prayed about it. I knew this was what I wanted to do.

And the answer resounding in my ear was a firm and definate "No!"

"No? How could it be no?" And so I asked again.

"No!" came the answer.

And so disappointed I chose not to become involved.

Shortly afterwards, very shortly, someone had told the bishop of my church who announced in our Sunday meeting that if anyone was involved they needed to stop.

So several women pulled out even though it meant losing five thousand dollars, the police got involved and the whole thing fell down like a - broken pyramid.

At first I was angry with my bishop for getting involved and stopping women from reaching their dreams. Although I hadn't lost anything (other than those nights out with the girls), I knew women who had.

Since that time I have come to learn that these kinds of things never last and they are illegal for a reason which has nothing to do with holding women down (although many men still do that).

Yes, some people (such as my neighbor) come out ahead, but it isn't long before the whole thing comes crashing down and many more people get hurt. In order for it to work you have to take bigger and bigger risks as you bring in more people. Eventually you can run out of people or someone reports it.

Is it worth making that money if instead of helping people you're hurting them?

And don't try this at home. I bear no responsibility whatsoever.