Tuesday, June 4, 2013

This World

Pinks and oranges highlighted the rooftop of the strip mall.  The sun was beginning to descend on this part of the first world.  I, too, was clothed in warm colors, a fun dress to show off to my friends.  Nearly late for our regular dinner date, I grabbed a few precious minutes to shop.  My flip flops flapped with purpose down the breezeway to Pier 1.

Three boys hovered by the entrance, one nearly a man, the others just kids.  They had a telling look of loitering about them.  I slowed to a stop and then braced for their approach, my shoes echoing a final clip clop.  Had I removed my dark glasses they would have read my haste, but I tried to stand open-minded.

"Would you like to donate to such and such club, a group serving underprivileged youth?"

"What are you accepting?" I asked with choice words.  Eyeing the canned food at my feet, I considered the market down the way.

"Cash."

Given no time to question, I felt forced to receive a chubby hand and a bright smile.

"Hi, my name's Curt.  Nice to meet you ma'am.  Are you able to help at this time?"

"Why no, no I am not.  I'm sorry.  Not right now.  I have no cash on me."

"There's an ATM over there."  He pointed.  I stared.

Flip, clop.   "No.  Thank you, young man."

A quick turn of the store and I quickly learned they did not have what I hoped to find.  But, I lingered to keep a watchful glance through stacks of wine racks and over seas of glasses and mugs.  The boys were still there and I didn't dare want to deal with them again.

I managed to slip by while another woman in the wings scavenged in her bag to feed them.  Fleeing the scene, I overheard the staff giving notes to his flock.  "Be sure to say underprivileged.  You get more attention that way.  Did you notice how the lady stopped when I did?"

Clip, flop.

No doubt there was a need, this great nation is full of them.  And, it is a necessity to care for our own.  We all have light to shine and time or talent or treasure.  But, right then I decided buying a goat for a girl across the third world feels a hell of a lot better than this.

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32 comments:

  1. Good point and well written. I do like to help out if I have cash on me -- but I also think the Lord gave us good sense to smell when something isn't legit.

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    1. Thanks Jamie! They named a reputable organization, but I am not sure...

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  2. Gah, I hate those situations. I would rather hide in the Gap for hours.

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    1. I probably would have, but my girls night out was beckoning.

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  3. i help when i can, but those situations are so uncomfortable. i don't like being put on the spot like that. in fact, i've been known to go the other side of the supermarket when the entrance is all clear just to avoid a confrontation like that.

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    1. I do too, but begging doesn't do it for me. Unless the homeless guy has a funny sign. I reward those.

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  4. I hate being accosted, guilted into doing something at an inconvenient time. This is the same reason I hated door-to-door selling of candy bars in school - it felt intrusive.

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    1. Accosted is the perfect word for this.

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  5. During my eight years in Manhattan, I was stopped on the street a million times and asked to donate to any number of organizations that were out to fix the world. I hated having to explain why I didn't want to, or couldn't stop, so I started crossing the street to avoid them. I believe in giving and in helping, but I want to do it on my own time, definitely not in the middle of a busy NYC street.

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    1. I agree, but sometimes I feel like we should inconvenience ourselves to serve. I don't know. Like with anything, there is a line. Asking me to whip out my debit card is definitely one of them.

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  6. Sometimes its hard for me to decipher whats legit so I too tend to go toward things like Heiffer and goat giving...at least then I feel like its purposeful.

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  7. So awkward these situations can be. I am like you and hide until the coast is clear. I fully support giving to those less fortunate and try to do so whenever possible, but being accosted is no fun.

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    1. No, it doesn't. It feels awful on a few levels. I guess its good we have the freedom to ask AND the freedom to say no.

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    2. To Mamarific: Speak like Yoda, you do.

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  8. Also, they were pushy. "There's an ATM" is rude and inappropriate. You were saying "No" politely, and they should have respected that. I'm also reluctant to give to random organizations set up on the curb. Who knows if they are legitimate. I prefer to research my donations and give to organizations I fully support.

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    1. Super pushy. Then why so we still get that pang to help?

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  9. I think you handled the situation the best you could. Definitely sounded sketchy. Living in NYC, getting approached by panhandlers is a pretty regular occurrence and I'm seasoned at the just walk on by and pretend I didn't hear.

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    1. Thank you. At first I thought they were collecting canned goods which seems much less sketchy.

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  10. Last time I saw those people while sitting outside Starbucks, I literally ran from there with my stuff, just so I could avoid the nay-saying situation. And what was up with that guy, guiding you to the ATM? Seriously, these people can be overconfident and too pushy.

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    1. I know! I would be scared to death to asked more money maybe even if I desperately needed it!

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  11. I'm not sure what it says about my character but I'm never sure those types of requests for cash are legit. I pretty much always go for the goat too.

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    1. Go for the goat! Let's make bumper stickers.

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  12. I'm sure some of the requests are legit but many are bogus too. Once, on my way to dinner, I saw a group of grungy teens on the sidewalk, eating takeout, laughing, drinking, having a great time. After dinner I walked by them again. This time they had their signs out and were begging for money because they were hungry. When I called them out they just laughed. Since then I never give money on the street, but I have bought coffee and sandwiches.

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  13. I tend to smile and say, No Thank You! I now choose to give by mail/check. I won't give anything more than a dollar or two to anyone soliciting outside anything. I'll take a card or info, but many refuse to give anything out.

    Even worse, we get solicitors with various stories arriving to our front door. It's intensely aggravating because they never have a card or info and I'm not about to hand over cash to people who come to my door. Well, okay, I did once but that was the first and last time!

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  14. That's BS. I had someone do that to me once - a 14 year old kid trying to raise money to keep 14-year old kids from committing crime or something. "There's an ATM right there."

    I sort of snapped. "I was actually just trying to politely say I wasn't giving you any money."

    I mean, cmon...

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  15. I love the way you've written this. i've been in that same situation, and I've continually been amazed at how sometimes they just won't take no for an answer. I think that a goat is a lovely contribution...

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  16. Had a similar situation with a door-to-door salesman tonight. Underprivileged, selling stuff to avoid dealing drugs... When I declined his $42 bottle of cleaner, he asked for a donation, "for all his hard work." I gave him $5, but definitely felt like I had to. There's just something about somebody basically panhandling at your door that makes me uncomfortable.

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  17. I really enjoy the way you've written this piece. Your first paragraph is great. I can see you in my mind's eye - hear your shoes as you walk down the breezeway. Nice.

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  18. I see a lot of random teenagers selling candy bars that look purchased at Costco in the name of a charity they have no actual materials from (no banner, no sign, nothing). It always makes me wonder. Then I feel guilty for being suspicious. Just the same, I support via people I know. It feels better that way, I guess.

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  19. Ahhh, chuggers (charity muggers). When living in NYC, I was always being stopped by bright-eyed collegiate youths asking me if I could spare a minute for children, puppies, the rainforest. It's hard to say no, but when you're your time is hijacked or you are made to feel as though you don't care b/c you don't stop, give money and/or your signature to a cause, it's unsettling. You captured that feeling and put it into words so well.

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  20. It's hard because there are so many scams--and I've seen a lot. I had my cell phone stolen by underprivileged youth going door to door in our neighborhood. It totally sucked having to decide if I should press charges or should let him go. What's the lesson there? What is privilege? What would make a real impact in a positive way? It's really hard to know the answers and what to do. I agree with you, though, I'd much rather give to organizations that are trusted and where I know how the money is being used because there are checks and balances. I like how you set this up even in your first couple of lines!

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