KAMLOOPS — I walked out of the super market very recently with a small bag of groceries (about $50 worth) and started heading for the truck when I heard a voice say, “Good afternoon, Sir, would you care to support those with Parkinson’s and autism?”
Startled, I turned and said, “Uh, no thanks, not today.”
“Thank you very much, you have a great rest of your day.”
On the way home, I thought to myself, “You handled that really badly, Mel. You were caught off guard, you were flustered, and you didn’t do the right thing.”
My reaction, I lectured myself, should have been to stop and talk to this lovely woman who was standing outside volunteering for not one, but two charities (I’ve since learned there can be a connection between them). And I should have said something like this:
“I’m really sorry, but I never carry cash anymore (which is true). But I do want you to know that we lost my wife Syd’s mom to Parkinson’s a couple of years ago, and have donated to the Parkinson Society for many years, and have frequently gone in the annual walk.
“We don’t have anyone in the family with autism, but earlier this year my grandson Mykel took his own life. He was only 16; he suffered from ADHD and depression, and of course we support those types of charities.”
And I’m quite sure she would have said something like, “I’m very sorry about your losses, but I appreciate you telling me about them, and thank you very much for your support.”
And she might have felt better knowing that her efforts are not unappreciated, instead of feeling as though she got the brush-off.
The Christmas season is a popular time for charities to ask for donations. Some would say it’s because they know people are in a giving mood this time of year, and I’m sure they’d be right.
The Angus Reid Institute published its latest national poll yesterday, noting that charities pin a lot of hope not just on Christmas but on special sales days like Black Friday, since they hold the promise of bigger donations via such things as cash-register point of sales.
If you went Black-Friday shopping last night, you’ll know there were a lot of cashiers asking customers for donations.
I’ve never been happy nor comfortable with reaching a cash register and being asked if I’d like to give a couple of bucks to a particular charity. I occasionally do if it’s a charity I especially like to support, but most of the time I now politely decline because it feels like a bit of an ambush.
(I’ve come to appreciate stores that have stopped doing that and, instead, put up a sign in the lineup that says if you’re interested in helping a particular cause, you can offer a donation at the cash register.)
I’m in the minority, however. Whereas I’ve seen previous surveys that have shown most people don’t participate in the cash-register ask, according to the new Angus Reid poll, two-thirds of Canadians say they either give that way or in some other shopping-related option such as contributing reward points, even though many are skeptical about the motives of the businesses involved.
The poll found that there are four kinds of givers: those who give nothing (about 14 per cent), those who give a little (31 per cent), those who are asked and give considerable amounts (34 per cent) and what they call “super donors” — the 21 per cent who give large amounts in a variety of situations.
But back to the volunteer standing out in the weather near the door to the grocery store. The subtext of the response I should have given, but didn’t, is that we are all in some way affected by disease and other things that threaten us personally or steal away the lives of our loved ones.
I hate hearing that our “lives are touched” by cancer or suicide or tragedy of any kind. It makes it sound as though these things brush up against us and are gone.
They do nothing of the sort. They punch is in the gut, throw us to the ground, club us senseless and leave us broken. I’m betting you know exactly what I mean.
So, I’ll continue to support charities that mean the most to me, but seldom when they try to connect shopping with giving, with a new exception. For those who spend four hours or six hours or however long a shift they put in standing outside with a donation jar or kettle, I’m going to make a habit of carrying a few dollars in my pocket, because that kind of selflessness deserves to be acknowledged.