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.
Tricia Drammeh said:
It’s a shame there are scammers out there trying to take advantage of people’s compassion in order to make some money. There’s nothing wrong with being wary and doing research before donating. I’m glad you took the time to make sure your money went to people who truly needed help.
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I’m not convinced it was a scam – there was just too many red flags on inspection for it to sit right with me donating to them. I also know that there are a number of charities out there where a good portion of the money never actually gets to the intended end and instead goes to overhead etc.. But the end result of the whole thing was that I wanted to help somehow, so I did.
I agree, there is nothing wrong – and you should – research before donating.
Connie Flanagan said:
You put a lot of thought and time into what you did and in writing this blog post about your experience. I have mixed feelings about it, because you won’t get that time back. I feel as though you gave that time to me, however, because I’ve been scammed before and not known what to do. I’ve also been in need and not known what to do. I’ve never been a panhandler or part of a scheme such as this one, but I’ve had to visit the local food bank before. So thank you for making the decision you did, for sharing it with others, and for giving what you might have given to a scam artist to someone truly in need. It’s always good to inform yourself about the charities you give to.
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I agree that it’s important to inform yourself about the charities you give to. I made a mistake once at the door and ever since then, I’ve learnt my lesson. But I hated that I ended up with such mixed feelings about the whole thing. I didn’t want to mistrust someone who might sincerely need help but I was mad about the time it took to try and figure it out. But I also wanted to help. But I didn’t like the idea that someone might be trying to take advantage of me. And so the circular thought process went. I know I don’t get that time back, but giving somewhere I knew could use even my small donation gave me a nice way to close off the subject either way. I helped someone. That’s what, really, was asked of me at the door and I did it. The end.
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Connie Flanagan said:
I think how you dealt with it was great. I know that feeling of being tugged between wanting to help someone truly in need and worrying that you might fall prey to a scam. It’s unfortunate there are so many scams out there. I also like to know what percentage of any contribution goes to the source, and how much is spent on “administrative fees.” Non-profit doesn’t necessarily mean that an organization is making good use of the money you donate.
lisa thomson-The Great Escape... said:
No one wants to be scammed, that’s for sure.That’s one way to lose our compassion. You make some great points here, Louise. The giving and the feeling we get from helping even if it is sketchy…hmm, well I think you did the smart thing by having your sensors up and checking out the ‘charity’. Good on ya for donating to the food bank. That’s always a good one and in need year round. Hope your day is more relaxing today 🙂 June is hectic!
Re: giving if it’s sketchy – no. My point was if I’d simply taken the whole thing at face value, donated the door and thought no more about it, I’d have felt I’d done a good thing and felt good about it. But as soon as I started looking into it, I couldn’t do that anymore.
And yes, today has been more relaxing! Thanks for visiting.
Even I encountered a similar situation and found out later that it was sham. Too late, because I had already donated by the look of those innocent faces and that heartwarming, tragic story.
That’s how we are forced to be less compassionate. Glad that you weren’t tricked into it. Great post. 🙂
Thank you very much! And sorry to hear that you had a bad experience. I hope it didn’t impact you long term as I agree bad experiences certainly can if we let them.
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No, I didn’t let it stay on my soul. Rather, I vowed not to fall in such traps again. Thanks!
Sounds like you learned a lot from this experience. There are so many causes we can give to these days, but as long as we are all willing to help, like yourself.
I hate the feelings of uncertainty, when there are those out there who can and will take advantage, but there are a lot more who only want to do good.
That is what #1000Speak is here to highlight.
Hope you have a less hectic week.
I agree that for the most part, most people are sincerely looking to help. I think this was just a reminder to myself to do my research and make sure my help gets where I intend it to go!
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It’s interesting how we as women can get ourselves into so much “trouble” because of our compassion. It’s difficult to trust our gut without second guessing whether a NO is the most loving and compassionate thing to do – which I believe, at times, it is.
Thank you for sharing this.
Laughed at the “Thank you Captain Obvious”. Glad for you keeping it real!
Thanks again! As for getting in trouble for compassion – I hate doubting possible good intentions. We had another guy with a clipboard come to the door for charity tonight and again I said no – because, honestly? Now I question it all. And I dislike that I do that. I know I even out elsewhere with charity etc…, but it’s sad when a few bad experiences ruin it for all the other good causes out there.