Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Donation Rant

I don't really know how to go about this rant, but I've got to start somewhere. I just had a strange encounter the other day and I want to comment on it.

Outside of Borders, where I was shopping avidly for books, a lady set up a station where people could make donations for children who are lost or who have been kidnapped. She asked every person as they went by (asking me as I entered), but I never carry cash on me so I can't normally donate unless the counter person asks me if I want to add it to my bill. In most cases, I will. It's only a dollar.

Anyway, as I left the store, she was kind of heckling me. She forced eye contact and conversation in a way that if you turned and walked away, it would be socially rude and immoral. I was with a friend, so we just kept walking, but this angered the lady. She must get this all the time. As we were walking away, I think she wanted us to feel the sting of rejecting her, so she yelled "Every 37 seconds, a child is lost!!!" Almost as if I was part of the problem now. Maybe take away another second because of my lack of donation.

Now, why even yell that at someone? I obviously wasn't going to contribute because I literally had nothing to give her, but does she think that yelling that will do either one of two things: I will turn around in embarassment and shame and give her money out of pity and sympathy; or two, I will now walk around my day and feel horrible because I didn't even empty my pockets for the cause.

I just thought it was tacky. I couldn't stop laughing, but a strange laugh, wondering why someone would yell something like that at someone (especially for a good cause). Aren't those kinds of people trying to help situations, not make them awkward or uncomfortable?

And even after she yelled that at me, as we were still walking to our cars, after a long pause she uttered, "Have a great day!"

Have a great day? She was just trying to solicit us using statistics. The whole thing is just bizarre.

And look, I know their job is hard. No one wants to give away spare cash, for any cause. People only really feel guilty when they know someone who has been inflicted bu whatever disease or tragedy. If you don't give money, it means you don't care. But is that true? It's hard to give away money in this economy, especially, when jobs are being lost left and right. This is a hard time for someone to sit on the street and ask for spare change.

This situation even reminds me of the Salvation Army santas that stand around stores on the holidays. When people hear that bell ringing, they go RUNNING. They avoid eye contact, shove their hands in their pockets, put their eyes down, and head straight for the car. And those people are the nicest. They open doors for you, they stand in the cold for HOURS, and they tolerate greedy people (like me the other day) who run away and don't want to acknowledge your presence. Those people truly have the kindest hearts.

So, I see the good cause, but is there a time when it crosses the line? People will donate, but do you need to give them the guilt trip? Do you need to get in their face? Some people will donate just for you to leave them alone, but is that worth it in the end?

What do you think of the solicitious nature of the donating booth crowd?

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