Today, people from one of the local churches knocked on my door. They were collecting food for their food bank. I happily participated and was quite surprised that they neither asked for my religious affiliation nor were in any way daunted by the Star of David that was featured prominently on my neck.
The reason why this surprises me is that back in my country, my mother was once kicked out of a charitable Jewish organization for not being Jewish. She is married to a Jew and has two half-Jewish children but that didn’t help. Mind you, she wasn’t trying to get charity. She was trying to participate in visiting elderly people and in bringing them food and winter clothes. At first, people in the charitable organization were misled by her looks (she is kind of the most Jewish looking person of all of us, in spite of not being Jewish) but when the horrible truth slipped out, she was expelled from the charity.
It’s nice to see that one doesn’t need to prove one’s religious or ethnic credentials to participate in doing something good for others in the place where I live now.
When the people collecting for charity were leaving, one of them said, “Merry Christmas!” Then, he looked at my Star of David and corrected himself, “Or. . . erm. . . happy whatever you celebrate.”
“Christmas works for me,” I replied.
What I find really weird is when people send out kids to sell chocolate bars, magazines, magnets, or any other kind of junk to collect money for charity. I think this is a very disturbing practice. Isn’t it too early for small children to be involved in the whole selling and buying ideology? They have the rest of their lives to feel like failures at selling stuff. Do they really need to be exposed to that as early as 5 (or 8, 10, 12)?
Also, is it really necessary to inculcate the idea that you can only be charitable if you manage to sell a lot? Then these kids grow up and it never even occurs to them that shelling out huge sums of money to feel self-righteous and good has nothing whatsoever to do with charity. People just sign monthly checks to charities in a completely mechanical way. Often, they even compete through the size of their donations.
We already have sales strategies invade too many areas of our lives. Is it really necessary to expose small children to sales under the guise of teaching them to be charitable? If instead you, for example, take a kid to the old folks’ home and get him or her to read a book or chat with a lonely elderly person, wouldn’t this do a lot more to develop this child as a human being than any amount s/he can bring in by selling stuff?
If I do decide to have a child and that child is forced to participate in this by their school, I’d just buy the entire stock of candy or chocolate bars or fridge magnets with my own money. And then I’d walk around with the kid distributing the stuff to people for free. Otherwise, I’d just die of shame if I see my (imaginary) child trying to sell things to people at an early age.
How do you, dear readers, feel about this phenomenon?
I was reminded of this disturbing phenomenon by this post.