By Lisa Smith Molinari
Here you go again. You’re running from store to store, buying baking supplies, twinkle lights, a “Frozen” Plush Olaf for your niece and flat screen TV for your husband. You’ve got to get home to bake 12 dozen pecan tarts for the neighborhood cookie exchange, when it dawns on you.
You forgot the butter.
For the second time today, you approach the irresistibly cute Salvation Army bell ringer outside the grocery store. You want to tell the sweet little old man freezing his bippy off in the name of the needy, “I gave earlier today,” but you know darned well he doesn’t remember and will think you’re a cheapskate. So you sort through the gum wrappers and bobby pins to see if you can find a few more quarters in your purse.
But you realize that you put all your coins in the kettle during your last trip to the store, so you look for a single or two, only to find that you’ve only got a five spot. With trembling hands you fork over the five dollar bill you were hoping to use for a Vente Skinny Peppermint Mocha Latte with extra sprinkles on the way home.
You intentionally hesitate with your hand over the red kettle, wanting the bell ringer and everyone else to see the denomination of your bill and think, “Wow, she gave five whole dollars.”
“Thank you for your kindness,” the old man says, and you walk into the grocery feeling good about your decision to feed the poor rather than slurp another overpriced specialty coffee.
In fact you feel so charitable that you decide to buy a few canned goods, in addition to your stick of butter, to put in the food bank collection at the front of the store. And while you’re at it, you grab a whiffle ball set to put in the Toys for Tots box, too.
With a sanctimonious flip of your wrist, you zip your debit card through the reader just as the cashier asks, “Would you like to give a dollar to the Orphaned Kittens’ Sweater Knitting Guild?” Seven other impatient customers are in line behind you. The baggers are waiting for your answer. The cashier is staring blankly into your eyes.
Another dollar? Seriously? Don’t you remember that I just gave a dollar for the stinking kittens when I was in here an hour ago, for criminy’s sake? This is entrapment! Let someone else dress the orphaned kittens! I just want to buy this damned stick of butter and go home!
As you search your brain for a valid excuse to say “No thanks,” you contemplate the essence of giving.
Charitable organizations raise the bulk of their income between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, when people are feeling generous. The Salvation Army, for example, needs to collect $1.3 million this holiday season to fund its programs for the homeless and the poor, and they hope about $450,000 of that will be in donations to its iconic red kettles.
The US Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program collects toys in the months of October, November and December, to give to less fortunate youngsters as a message of hope to encourage them to become responsible, productive, patriotic citizens. Other national and local charities are collecting anything from money to canned goods to blankets to teddy bears for worthy causes.
Is giving about risking death by trampling to get the best bargain on an Xbox Assassin’s Creed Unity Bundle at Wal-Mart, or is it about providing for those who are truly in need?
“Absolutely,” you tell the cashier, realizing that the essence of giving is that it is no bargain at all.