Saturday, August 3, 2013

Guilt-driven Forced Donating

This post is probably not going to be very flattering.  At least not for me.  YOU might feel better about yourself afterward though!

Today, I went to the grocery store in a town nearby to pick up a few small things.  I left my wallet at home, had $20 in cash in my pocket and there was no other money in my car.  Pulling into the parking lot, I see a gathering of people at the exit.  Something told me to drive past and when I did, I got EXTRA annoyed.

There, jammed around the exit, was a group of about ten or more high school kids.  They were collecting donations for something school related and they were dressed up in their sports jerseys and school colors.  Lots of excitement was going on and there wasn't even a departing shopper there.

I watched a young victim guy exit the store, totally unprepared for what was waiting.  I knew what was coming and I wanted to jump out of my car and yell, "Retreat!  Retreat!  Find an alternative exit, good man!" 

Those kids were all over him like stink on a litter box.  All of that school-pride-in-your-face-fueled-by-teenage-energy was flying around as they were bouncing all over the place.  They were talking way too loud all at once, asking, "Would you like to donate to blah-blah-blah??"

I had stopped in the middle of the parking lot, staring in awe as the poor guy was mauled by the teenage vultures.  It was like a bad accident.... I just couldn't look away.  I watched him digging in his pockets while trying to balance his bags (which no one cared to help him with; they just wanted his money) and heard myself say out loud, "Oh......my......gawd."

There are quite possibly tire tracks in the parking lot from my rapid acceleration from zero to 30.  I would rather leave without my stuff than be forced into forking over cash at that moment.  I was so outta there. 

Right away I started thinking about Justin.  He always gets annoyed when they hit him up for donations at the the register, let alone when he's leaving the store.  I used to get so pissed at him, calling him a greedy Grinch and all sorts of guilt-inducing names.  

Once when the cashier asked him if he wanted to donate to some big charity, his response was an exasperated "REALLY?  C'mon!"  I thought I was going to die of embarrassment, even though he did give them money.  

His explanation was, "How in the hell do you say NO without looking like an asshole?  It totally puts you on the spot.  And everywhere you go they ask you for money toward some cause.  It's like they know you'll do it so you don't feel like a piece of shit."  I totally get that now.

Guilt-driven Forced Donations.  GFD.  It's spreading like wildfire!

Not that I'm trying to make excuses, but I think I'm a pretty generous person when it comes to charity.  Until recently I was donating monthly to four separate organizations.   When my father passed away, I took a set percentage of the money that he left me, bought goods and donated them to an animal shelter.  I don't think twice about saying "yes" to "would you like to donate ___ to ______" when checking out at a store.  I'm right there with the "of course!"

But enough!  There has to be a limit to all of this.

Right?

This new found attitude hasn't been easy to adapt to.  I was raised Catholic and their "thing" 40 years ago was to give a percentage of your income to the church.  My parents didn't follow that rule to such an extreme, but they gave money every week.  (I say "they" but it was really my mom, since my dad was at home while we were at church, busily being part of his own creative religion)

Not so long ago, I had a table full of relatives give me a lecture about how I needed to cut back from four charities to two since we weren't exactly Rockerfellers or Trumps or Carnegies or Gateses or Buffets.  We were, and still are, majorly limited with our funds.  I argued my case pretty hard and we agreed to meet in the middle.  From four to two.

My point in the argument was that we need to help others.  I want Allie to grow up wanting to help others.  It's all part of karma and it comes back to you in some way.  Maybe when you need help, it will come to you because you were there for other people.  Or maybe what you receive will be an enlightened understanding to what is going on around you.  

I want Allie to know that there are people who are very ill and need help; there are families who have lost everything in natural disasters and are living with almost nothing...and yet they are grateful; there are people who went to war for our country and now they need us to help them create a normal life; there are animals discarded like garbage on the side of the road who have the potential to be the most loving and devoted friend a human can know; and  there are children who are neglected and abused and all they think about is fighting to survive.

And I want her to know that she can help, even if it seems like a small gesture.

When you look carefully outside of your own little "world", you become compassionate and empathetic and your spirit grows.  I want her spirit to be just freakin' enormous!  I want it to get in peoples' way and block traffic and shit.

Hopefully all of this  will make her feel good about herself and want to just keep learning and giving.  It can be an endless cycle.  If she sees US giving in some way (monetarily or otherwise), maybe it will become second nature for her to do the same during her lifetime.

With all of that being said, it still pisses me off when I feel like I'm being ambushed and I have no choice but to give money.  The message sounds more like, "Would you like to donate cash or would you prefer to look like a selfish bastard to everyone around you?"  How is that going to make anyone feel good?  

And for Pete's sake, don't come at me with the same hyped-up-on-hormones-but-looking-like-I'm-on-crack-too energy that I couldn't stand, even when I was one of them 25 years ago!

Approach with caution and ye shall receive bank!!  

Okay, maybe not "bank", but probably a smidgen of US currency.  

(Sorry about that "bank" thing.  I was just trying to fit in with the cool kids.  Fail.  Yikes.)  


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