I have a terrible confession to make.
Every time I went to my favorite supermarket, the cashier asked for donations to one cause or another … so I started going someplace else.
She’d stare at me with a solicitous look that only cashiers who worked in the development office of Yale University or United Way could possibly display, and then ask me, “Would you like to donate to Tiny Tykes Soccer Club?” Or “Would you like to help the Ivy League Cheerleaders of America?” Or “Would you like to give some spare change to the Save the Snail Darter … Again campaign?” Every week there was a new cause, and I expected her to ask, “Would you like to donate to Gov. Malloy’s Retirement Fund?”
The problem is I can’t say no because I suffer from a little understood psychological condition called ISNS — the Inability to Say No Syndrome. (You’d think that after living with my wife so long, I would have developed that skill.)
I give money to causes, to charities, to poor relatives, to poor strangers, to my church, to my alma mater, to my wife, to my daughters, to environmentalists, to veterans, to monks, to … you get the idea. I give till it hurts, but my threshold for pain has been decreasing.
Lately everyone is asking for money, from politicians to major and minor charities to panhandlers in Manhattan and at the train station and to clergy of every denomination. For once, I’d like to get a call from someone who says, “Good morning, Joe. Our group wanted to give you money in recognition of your generosity!”
Virtually every piece of junk mail and every phone call is a solicitation for medical research, religious societies, environmental groups, volunteer firemen, art organizations and celebrity causes. Someone is always hitting you up for a buck or two thousand. What’s troubling is the money can go toward administrative costs and not the “worthy cause,” which is a term popularized by Jerry Lewis at his annual telethon.
Last year, I went to a fancy fund-raiser and thought the price of admission was steep, until it got steeper. I discovered a card for a donation under my plate. The lowest suggested gift was more than my mortgage and car payment combined.
Skilled technicians were prowling around the ballroom with credit card readers and baskets to collect the booty. I considered hiding in the men’s room, but there was a skilled technician there, guarding the exits and checking the stalls for slackers and cheapskates.
Two months ago I gave a donation for a friend who was injured in a car accident. It was a very worthy cause, so I went online and donated to help pay his medical bills. Every week from then on, the website would send me solicitations for other worthy causes in different time zones and hemispheres.
What really annoys me, though, are the appeals for donations in checkout lines. You can’t leave the pet supply store without the cashier asking you to donate to animal research. And when you walk into rest-stops on the Interstate, there’s always a table for a soccer team, a Cub Scout den, a dance club or a cheerleader squad, so you have to pass their table to get to the bathroom … or drive 100 miles to the next one.
I know that God loveth a cheerful giver (Jerry Lewis probably said that, not God) so here’s a suggestion. If you want to raise money, try going to sports bars or gentlemen’s clubs, where the patrons get juiced up and get even more generous, and would be willing to fork over a few hundred for new cheerleader outfits … or the Stormy Daniels Legal Fund. No receipt required. Come to think of it, Stormy probably has her own Go Fund Me page.
Pretty soon they’ll be asking for money in the most unlikely places:
Me: “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been a month since my last confession. These are my sins…”
Priest: “Hmmm. Hmmm. Oh dear. OK …Your sins are forgiven, my son.”
Me: “Thank you, Father.”
Priest: “My son, would you like to contribute to the parish roof repair fund? Roofs don’t last forever, you know. We take all major credit cards.”
Joe Pisani can be reached at email@example.com.