This week was fun, but exceptionally busy.
It involved job interviews, ceremonies, meetings, dinner with relatives, a day trip to Toronto, speaking in public, small talk and networking with any number of people I don’t know very well, the end of senior kindergarten for my eldest …
… as well as all the normal stuff like work, making daycare pick up on time, feeding the kids …
So by Friday night I was DONE.
My husband was out for the evening, so I was on my own with the girls.
We’d hit the library, dinner was served, and I had just settled them down in front of Smurfs 2 and was starting to unwind and enjoy that small bit of daily time to myself when …
… the doorbell rang.
“Mom! Someone’s at the door!” screamed my helpful 5-year-old, thus making it pretty impossible to simply ignore them.
“Thanks, Captain Obvious,” I mumbled as I stopped what I was doing, trudged upstairs, and prepared myself to not be completely rude to whoever it was at my door who was interrupting my first moments of down-time all week.
I was greeted by an earnest-looking, attractive young woman with a clipboard who immediately launched into her pitch about how she was collecting money for Eastern Ontario People in Need, who worked with the homeless, and did such good things, and was a registered charity, and …
I cut her off. Politely.
“It sounds like a wonderful charity,” I said. “But we already give to a number of causes and have already decided where we are giving this year.”
All true, but it still makes me feel utterly uncaring when I say no in these situations.
She nodded, with a smile and small look of disappointment, and turned to walk away.
And I cracked.
“Do you have any information you can leave with me? I could consider donating in the future,” I said.
She handed me a pamphlet, complete with that nice image of people holding hands, and told me how the group had really helped her when she was in need and that was why she was so motivated to help others.
I remember thinking how relieved I was that I had given her a chance to tell me a bit of her story – because she obviously wanted to and sometimes giving someone the chance to be heard is compassionate in itself.
But I also thought how well put together she looked for someone who had struggled so much.
And then thought I shouldn’t have such uninformed opinions because there are many faces of homelessness, and that I would look up the group and reconsider.
Again, so happy I hadn’t just brushed her off.
That is, until I went online this afternoon and couldn’t load their website. So I Googled them, and the first hit was a community group forum complaining about them. A few links further down was an Ottawa Police Services Bulletin which listed them as “suspicious”. Closer inspection of the pamphlet then revealed a typo in the web url they provided (www.peopleineed.com). I tried it with both correct and incorrect spelling with no luck.
Maybe their site was just down and they are legitimate, but it raised enough questions that I’ll donate elsewhere.
So now I’m left with mixed feelings about the whole thing. I don’t think my initial reaction at the door to simply dismiss was correct.
It lacked compassion. And I don’t want to be that person.
Sure I was tired, but if there was a legitimate need, I had both time to listen and $20 bucks to help.
I’ve written before about how none of us need to be responsible for changing the world and that not being able to fix everything should never be an excuse to do nothing.
Every little bit really does help.
But in this instance, acting on my compassionate instinct likely wouldn’t have helped.
So I’m left wondering if I should have ended things at the first dismissal and saved myself the time of trying to figure it out.
Because, if I’m being honest, while I’m angry if there is someone going door to door trying to scam me and my neighbours I’m also angry at the time and effort she wasted me in trying to figure it out. Because that was time I could have spent elsewhere.
Really, it probably would have “cost” me less to obliviously hand $20 bucks in cash over to the lady and be done with it.
I’d have felt good. She’d have felt good. The end.
And there is some value in a perceived benevolent act. My “feeling good”, even if it really achieves nothing, has a good impact on me if I don’t know that piece.
And in not bothering to look any deeper at things, I’d have had that time to do other things.
But that brings me to the informed compassion of my adulthood. My need to know that when I donate my time or my money, that it IS actually helping a needy and worthy cause.
So that $20 bucks?
I donated it to my local food bank. I figure this way I know my money ended up where it will help those in need in my neighbourhood.
I’ve previously considered donating to them, so I felt it was a good way not to simply have to write off the sunk cost in time of an experience that made me want to give.
Since February, every month on the 20th I link up with the #1000Speak for Compassion blogging movement and join other bloggers writing about compassion.
This is my contribution for this month.
Take the time to be inspired by the contributions of others here.
Or consider joining in and sharing your own.