They're out in front of the grocery store, the Wal-Mart, the K-Mart; they're on the streetcorners downtown, uptown. . . And I will turn around and abjure the groceries or whatever I need, and go home, and return at an odd hour when the Salvation Army charity-bucket bell-ringers are sure not to be there. Or I won't return at all.
I'm not the only one that cringes upon hearing the unceasing dink-dink-dink-dink that starts in November and lasts into January. At a supermarket that had two entrances rather far apart I saw most customers avoid the entrance where the bell-ringer stood, and enter and exit the other. The bell-ringer picked up his red bucket and moved to that entrance, trying to nab the sneaky shoppers -- who again escaped him, through the other door.
I suppose many of us enjoy giving to charities, especially good and noble ones such as the Salvation Army. But I am tired of being begged for money, to give more and more of it, when I have less and less of it. In fact I am falling behind, being forced to pay $3/gallon for gasoline, $365 a year to park in my own employer's lot, $700 for a tank of propane, $500 deductible when a carefree trucker let debris fly off his trailer, smashing my car's front end; $25 for a haircut so that my students won't say, "Did you know your hair is a half-inch longer on one side than the other?" (I tend not to look that closely at myself, but students see everything, including cheap clothes and assembly-line haircuts.) Our employer even volunteers to deduct from our paychecks funds for those less fortunate, via The United Way, and plants a United Way rep right in our office to guilt us into giving.
I resist where I can. Rarely, I salve my conscience by dropping into the bucket a quarter or a buck. Or if I pass the bell-ringer as I enter, I might promise, "I'll give when I come back out." And then I'll sneak back out, if possible. Either way the ringer -- poor brave shivering fellow -- says "God bless you."
I'm blessed in countless ways, including the fact that I don't have to take charity myself. But I need to be blessed with more money so I'd feel glad to give -- instead of shamed because I can't.