Curbing the charitable appetite
Today was shopping day—well, “Transformers” viewing and shopping day. Roommate, his girlfriend and I (we need to come up with something that summarizes the three of us), went to a local mall to see a flick and get me some clothes, as the bulk of my stuff will remain in storage until a larger apartment opens up this fall.
So, off we went to a place called Arundel Mills, a sprawling mall near Fort Meade that includes a 28-screen theater, a “Medieval Times,” a “Dave and Buster’s” and nearly every imaginable store and restaurant, all conveniently priced as high as possible to emphasize the convenience of the attractions. Nice, eh?
Movie plus refreshments equaled a tank of gas and got the day started. Afterwards, we three made our way around the interior mall loop, grabbing some lunch and stopping in to shops here and there as I spotted things I needed for my extended sleepover.
Lo and behold, there was a small table for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital parked near the food court, and several genuine, caring people stood around it, watching for anyone to make eye contact. Most didn’t, but a few did, and they were greeted with a smile. Something like St. Jude’s isn’t a hard sell. It’s a chance to give a little bit of comfort to a young person who has spent most of his or her life in pain and sickness. I had some bills in my wallet, and was fine about handing them over…but where was the box?
“Hi, there, have you heard about St. Jude’s?” The young guy nearest to me asked. He was in a Sunday Best set of clothes, with a bright red sweatshirt over top with the St. Jude’s logo in white letters.
“Yes, I know about it. Where’s your collection box?” I asked, surprised.
“Well, we’re trying to get people a little more involved that just a one-time contribution,” he explained, and went on to tell me how they were hoping for something like a $25 per-month commitment for the year, instead of just a spare-change offer. He showed me some figures and brochures on just how much it costs for all the tests and treatments these children need.
I took a brochure and told him I’d visit the website, but that I wasn’t ready to sign up just then. In all honesty, I wanted to check if I could give through the Combined Federal Campaign, which is the big charity drive the military participates in, and takes things straight out of our paychecks. It’s an easier go for us than an outside push for money, but I could see from the guy’s face that he thought it was just another “no thanks.”
He kindly wished me well and turned toward another approaching crowd. And I felt like an outright jerk. “No thanks,” to helping sick children. Yikes, I was a bastard.
And, sure enough, I went on to buy a couple of shirts and a pair of shoes, and each ratchet of $25 clicked in my head as another moment in someone’s life that could be made easier, if they just had the money, verses another shirt in my closet. And of course the inflated prices of the mall didn’t help either.
Makes you want to make a vow of poverty, sometimes.