The Light Touch / Deep pockets -- charity begins at dawn
Published 1:14 pm, Tuesday, November 9, 2010
When someone knocks on your door at 7:30 on a Saturday morning, asking: "Can you visualize world peace?" what does a person do? I'll tell you what I did: I told the guy that I hadn't even had my first cup of coffee, and that not only couldn't I visualize world peace, I could hardly visualize my own image in the bathroom mirror at this hour of the morning.
Realizing he had caught me at an awkward moment without my makeup on put him at a huge disadvantage. I wasn't fully awake enough to know what was going on, and, therefore, was unable to make rational decisions on any subject. While I stood there yawning in his face, he went off on a spiel about looking toward a future when man and animal could cohabitate in harmony -- when the wolf will lie down with the lamb, and all beings will be as one.
My two old cats, who happened to be skulking by at that exact moment, must not have bought into what he was saying because they began to hiss. This threw the solicitor off track since he stopped talking. He told me to go and feed the felines before they decided to shimmy up his legs and scratch his eyes out.
He then inquired if I might consider contributing a meager amount for the revelations with which he had empowered me. I told him it was a little early for a business transaction, but I promised to think about what he said, and would try imagining life from a new perspective. Then, I excused myself saying I needed to get back to my real life, which hardly represented the peace and harmony he was spouting.
Last month, two college kids paid us a visit.
"Do you want to save Long Island Sound?" they asked.
"Right now? In the middle of Jeopardy?"
"The Sound needs your help. The waters are polluted. It's people like you who can help save it."
I told them I refused to take responsibility for muddying the waters. Instead, they might want to turn their attention to kids who weren't potty trained, whose mommies let them use Long Island Sound for purposes other than recreational swimming.
They further went on to tell me that that boats were a direct cause of the problem; that fish were dying from debris thrown overboard. "Junk food like lemon rinds, Doritos and Twinkies are tossed into our waters every day, not to mention, copies of National Enquirer are skimming the top and floating toward shore."
"Now that's what I call real pollution," I said.
I threw some money at them, telling them to have a nice evening, reminding myself never to put so much as a toe in the Sound again for fear that a fish, high on gin and tonics, might attack me.
Over the past year I have been asked to Save the Environment, Save the Ocean, Save the Whales, and help find a cure for any disease of my choice. I have purchased light bulbs, pencils, helped kids join the circus, and pledged to support the Metropolitan Opera, Channel 13 and New York Public Radio. When the Girl Scouts stop by, I buy boxes of cookies. I am a Friend of Animals, have signed petitions on everything from noise control to getting rid of ragweed. I've analyzed the issues of acid rain, the ozone layer and global warming. But, when a new arrival came to my door imploring me to take out a magazine subscription to help pay for his acting classes, I declined.
"What's the matter, lady?" he asked. "Don't you support the arts?"
"I don't need any more magazines," I explained.
"I can give you a good deal on Vogue."
"I'm not looking to spend money right now. My car needs new tires. It's going to cost me a bundle."
"Great," he said. "Then you obviously need a subscription to Popular Mechanics. For only a few cents a month, you're in business."
My husband tells me I need to learn to say no. Yet, when the Humane Society sent him literature depicting an animal caught in a steel leg trap, he shelled out the bucks. Organizations are geared to tug at our heartstrings. We respond by emptying our wallets partly out of support, partly out of guilt. Not giving says we don't care, and not caring means we're un-American. Frankly, my deep pockets are growing lean.
There are many who hang up on telemarketers, who phone at off hours. I end up having lengthy discussions, so much so that some know me by my first name. They consider me a staunch supporter. I even have a badge proving I am a woman with a cause. My most recent is Friends of Shakespeare. After all, who am I not to support the classics?
I suppose I am destined to go through life being a sucker. I hate thinking of myself as a pushover, but I am. It's not that I am such a good-nick. I am simply too embarrassed to say no.
But, when a dog advocate came a calling, that's where I drew the line.
"Would you like to save our strays by supporting solar-heated dog houses for senior canines?" he asked.
"After we pay the mortgage on our own dog house," I told him.