Friday, December 01, 2006

Ring Those Christmas Bells

The bellringers are out now in force. Until just yesterday, the weather has been quite pleasant for this ARCTIC CIRCLE where we live. Yesterday, however, the temperature dropped well below freezing, the sky got that frigid blue where the sun actually doesn't provide any warmth, and I had to turn up the water heater so the shower water didn't get cold from the pipes before reaching my skin.

So, anybody volunteering to stand outside the grocery store and ring a bell for the Salvation Army is REALLY dedicated. And the colder it gets, the more there is a sort of increased sense of obligation to give, just to make it worth while for these poor freezing people.

Oh really? Yes, I read The Poor Little Match Girl too! I wonder if that has anything to do with it.

Erin has a really good post about feeling guilty about not donating--but she doesn't carry cash. She makes all her purchases on plastic--which I do a lot of too. It makes tracking purchases much easier because it's all online immediately, plus we get airline miles. But what does one do when confronted with bell ringers? I found myself compelled to post a comment, which got long enough I thought I'd make it a post here.

I’ve decided that I HATE feeling guilty. And GUILT works so well on me that I end up donating to things I would not necessarily give to if I didn’t feel so GUILTY about it. Plus there are SO MANY good causes. Plus, I am CHEAP.

So I’ve made it a goal to walk cheerfully past these bellringers, and even to say something nice to them. “You got a nice day–not to cold!” or “Love your hat” (one guy had on silly reindeer antlers). They can assume that I have already given generously, and don’t you think they’d rather have human interaction than the guilty “duck and dump” of whatever spare change I have in the bottom of my purse?

That’s what I tell myself, anyway.

On reflection, though, isn't that the best way? Don't you do it anyway? If I have cash, and I put it in the Little Red Post of Guilt on the way in, I don't feel obligated to put more in on the way out. Or, if I know I'm going to get some cash back and donate on the way out, I don't feel so guilty going in.

So, taking the next logical step--these bell ringers don't know if I've already given today or not. So, what if I've already dropped a couple hundred dollars into a pot--should I feel guilty for not doing it twice? OF COURSE NOT. So--why not just act as though I've put all my (substantial) cash in earlier in the day?

Or, I consider it from the other side of the transaction. Personally, I HATE asking for money, no matter how noble the cause. If people scurried past me, with their eyes averted with guilt, or apologized to me for not having anything right at the moment--what would I do?

I'd feel like I had to apologize for making them feel guilty
I'd be compassionate and understanding and give them absolution
I'd feel obligated to make more donations into my own pot.
AND I'd feel obligated to put money in every other pot I came across so that bell ringer wouldn't feel unsuccessful.

Which is, if you look at it objectively, Just Plain Silly. So--this season, give to the causes you believe in, look those bell ringers in the eye and thank them for their dedication. Remember, between charities, it's an exhibition, not a competition.

1 comment:

~moe~ said...

Thank you! I have such a guilt complex (must be my Lutheran upbringing) and walking by those ringers even if I'm half a block away at the mall and they are at one door and I'm going in another, I feel guilty for not going in that door to drop off change. I actually do donate, but I do it with plastic, too, so I can track it for my budget.
But you're totally correct and I'm feeling better. You rock. Thanks.