We’re All Giving What We Can: A Reflection on the Auction

For those who don’t know me, my name is Nathan Paul, but most of the time I’m just “Nate.” If you’ve haven’t seen me running around at arrival or dismissal with a camera, or at a PCA athletic contest with a camera, or at a concert with a camera, or pretty much anywhere on campus with a camera, you’ve probably seen what’s on the other side of the lens: the pictures, the videos, and the projects I actually get paid to shoot with Dr. Abood. I tell people all the time that I have my dream job, and I got it before I even graduated from college.

What originally brought me to PCA was the opportunity to use my creative gifting to help grow enrollment at a Christian school. That, in and of itself, is an enormous blessing that I count each and every day. What I quickly realized about my role here, beyond the creative element of my job, is that I’m given the unique opportunity to watch God’s hand work in the lives of hundreds of students every day, from Preschool to the Upper School. Plus, I get to watch families begin to mold their schedules, affinity groups, and sense of direction around the pursuit of maximizing their child’s God-given potential. Whether it be athletics, creative writing, theatre, or mathematics, your student’s interests will lead you into pockets of our school community that you may never have entered when you were in school. I get to watch all that from behind my lens, and it goes a long way towards helping me tell the story of not just our students, or our program, but of the all-encompassing narrative of our school community and the ways that God’s “ruach” breathes life into it.

Ruach (roo-akh): Hebrew word for spirit, breath, or wind.

When I joined the PCA Team in 2019, the Auction was moved to the virtual world, and then again for 2020. In both years, I helped our Auction Team promote the event, and I understood, or so I thought, why we held an Auction, and what the money went towards, but it wasn’t until the event, itself, that I really grasped what the Auction is for – and what it is not for.

My wife and I found our table on Saturday morning just as our fantastic auctioneer, Justin Conway, began listing items. I wasn’t paying a ton of attention to the numbers being called out, because I was hungry, and I was looking at a plate full of sausage, quiche, fruit, bacon, eggs, and…. er, I mean, I was looking at a controlled portion of breakfast foods, and I was enjoying the company of the people at my table. Once I finished my food, I turned around and really began to listen to the amounts being called:

“$1,000 here. Can I get $1,500?” “$2,700. Thank you, sir! Somebody give me $2,800!”

I almost choked on my bacon when I heard the final call for one of our parking spaces. That’s when my sin nature kicked in.

“What are these people doing? Double my monthly mortgage payment on a fishing trip with Mr. Sharbaugh and Mr. Abood? How can these people be spending this much money? How do they even have this much money to spend?”

The fallen portion of my heart wanted to focus on income discrepancies more than the unified task at hand – to raise money for families to send their children to Portsmouth Christian Academy, to see their kids be embraced by Mrs. Brown, to form lasting relationships with Steve Foley and Pete Beal. That’s what families were giving money to, not a parking space or a night in a lighthouse.

My moment of clarity, and humility, came when the auctioneering paused, and the giving began. Elaina Russo spoke about what Sponsor-A-Child is, and why we do it, but it wasn’t until the program began that I really understood what was happening, and what kind of community we have at PCA.

“Who would be willing to give the opportunity for a student to come to PCA for a semester? It’s a donation of $8,243.”

Paddles lifted into the air.

“Thank you so much for your generous contributions to our school!” said the auctioneer. “Now, let’s go to a quarter. Who will give for a quarter?”

Even more paddles were raised.

This pattern continued all the way down the list. At $94, to send a child to PCA for a single day, paddles were up all over the gym. People were waiting for the opportunity to give what they could. I would’ve lost out on every item at the starting bid, as would have other families, but I was overwhelmed with the generosity of our community, and the willingness to give what they could. There was even a year’s-worth of tuition donated by a single donor who didn’t raise their paddle at the Auction. That’s incredible.

Even more incredible, however, is that we show our kids what it looks like to give of ourselves. Some are in a position to give more, and their generosity truly humbled me. Some are in a position to give less, but still seek to give, and their generosity humbled me just the same. Some can’t give financially. You all know who you are. You give time and energy, an extremely valuable commodity for any school.

Lastly, I would argue your presence and engagement with PCA is a donation in and of itself. Taking your Lower School students to support the Upper School softball team. Buying tickets to see the upcoming spring musical. Stopping by your son or daughter’s teacher’s classroom to just say, “Thank you.” These are ways you can give back to your school community.

Our Annual Auction helps us support the Variable Tuition fund, which allows 44% of our students to be here, but it also unites those pockets of people within it. The artists. The athletes. The families who have a lot and the families who don’t. We’re all here in Dover, New Hampshire, at Portsmouth Christian Academy to maximize the God-given potential of our students, your sons and daughters. And each of us can play a role in seeing that mission executed.

For some, they invest money. For that, we give thanks.

For some, they invest time. For that, we give thanks.

But, for all of us, the easiest investment we can make in our school is in one another. Support your team. Support your teacher. Support the other families doing it all for the first time, themselves. Ultimately, that’s the story we all want told about Portsmouth Christian Academy. And that’s what this first-time Auction-goer will forever recall about our amazing community.