Sunday, October 28, 2007

Handing Out Fliers for Help

Yesterday I spent three hours at an upscale, expensive organic store. I was not shopping, I was handing out fliers and collecting canned food for our City's Holiday Drive. My family handed fliers out to just about every person who entered the store. We added a little comment, "There's a box in cafe for a canned food donation if you can help today." Simple enough.

Just grab one extra can of food while you are in the store and drop it in the big box on the way out. If everyone entering the store participated, we really would have been well on our way to feeding the 725 families who can't afford Thanksgiving dinner.

During the last hour I sat at the box and we didn't get any donations. Now, I'm willing to admit that the City did not do the best job in laying out the flier, but the store manager was also making announcements. Some people might have felt that it was a gimmick by the store to sell more canned goods. This might be true, but we will collect food for these families and it needs to be purchased somewhere. All this said, it really was a pitiful amount of donations. I watched the people leaving with their expensive orders on their credit cards and really couldn't believe how few helped.

I'm involved with another food collection each year through the Boy Scouts. Usually I blame the lack of people participating with Food for Scouting on people not remembering to purchase the food, or forgetting to put the bag of food out, or not understanding what to do with the bag when they receive it.

After watching family after family walk past my box without a single can being donated, I've changed my mind about people and their altruistic tendencies. This setup was too convenient, too easy, right at their fingertips and they still didn't reach for an extra can. They didn't think they needed to help. They weren't moved to think of others. They just didn't seem to care.

I haven't given up, because a few people even bought store cards so we can buy turkeys and the people who did donate were so happy to help and felt so good. People who cared really cared. I feel sad for all the rest.

Friday, October 26, 2007

That's Where I Get It From?

My mom just left after a few days visiting. Whenever anyone says that their mother or mother-in-law is visiting, I always go into high observation mode to determine if it is a good thing or not. I'm always excited no matter who is visiting and dream of owning a bed and breakfast some day, but visits from family members always mean that some extra baggage may follow. Sometimes I fear the baggage and I wonder if others feel the same.

As the moment of my mother's arrival came closer, I found myself feeling more and more like the bratty, negative teenager I once was. Now, don't get me wrong, I never actually had the opportunity to be a bratty, negative teenager which is probably why I'm still one. When I should have been revolting against the 'rents they were too busy running out the door every night in a one upmanship of activity leading to their very hate-filled divorce. There was nobody in the house to act out against, just my brother and I doing our homework and watching t.v. every night.

So, mom's coming to visit, we have nothing in common, and I'm feeling like a brat. For years, I have firmly believed that I am nothing like my mom. My husband once asked how I turned out the way I did since I was so very different from my mom and grandmother. I always say that I'm just like my dad. He was a "can do" guy who would organize businesses to protest new township rules and work with troubled youths.

Imagine my surprise when I took my mom to hear my friend's band and she really enjoyed the rock music. She was tapping her foot, and had a great time. When the band finished she wanted to stay for the next band. There was no next band, but boy 'o boy is that exactly how I am. I always want them to keep bringing the bands on and I'll stay all night into the next morning without ever growing tired. My mom always either had Elvis or country music playing on the radio. I would sing along and dream of being a star. I can't remember my dad ever listening to music.

I pride myself on being able to pull back and analyze myself completely so this was astounding to me. My love of bands is one of my most defining characteristics and it comes from my mom. But that's not all.

While mom was here, she was with me everywhere I went. My life was happening and she was here. My friend was featured on Montel Williams. She's a friend who I help out when she needs me. The show was on domestic violence and she did an awesome job. Mom and her boyfriend, Donald, and I watched together. We also had been in the car the day before when a male friend called and we had a nice conversation and made plans which mom heard. I felt it necessary to explain that he was gay so it was okay to get together with him. Plus, I spent a great deal of time showing her pictures of my outreach efforts to families at my school where I have a wide assortment of friends.

I have a WIDE assortment of friends. Many of which need a helping hand and I'm there to give it to them. I used to HATE that my mom did this. She was friends with all these different people all the time. She still spends a great deal of time telling me how she helps this friend and that friend, and their situations, and what she does and...

Wait a minute, I get ths from her too? Honestly, I have never, ever thought of myself as being anything like my mom. We don't get along and we don't have anything in common. I can't believe it took me this long to discover these connections.

I'm thankful for the visit. I'll be spending a great deal of time thinking about the two of us and how we are not that different. Also, I'll be wondering about my sons in the future and how they might be like me.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ignoring the Creeps

Truthfully, it's been a bad couple of weeks for me as a woman in my little town. First I met an old man who was a photographer and he kept letting his camera hit me inappropriately and apologizing with that look on his face. Second, I was out to see my friends' band and this guy sat between me and the band and kept turning around and outright staring at me. Then he took the empty seat next to me and kept "accidentially" hitting me with his leg about 15 times. Oh! "by accident". Right.

In one of my nonprofit jobs, I would buy townhouses for rental to lower-income families. Just before closing on a purchase, I had to confirm that all the final punch-out items had been completed by the builder. During the course of a few years, I visited 20 construction sites, dressed nicely for my office job. Although most of the men were professional, there were some who were not, and those smiles and comments and little quips always followed. The thing about it is that you never know what you are going to encounter.

I never get angry or say anything to these men. I grew up in a real working class area where you would be severly ridiculed if you complained and did not "play along". For the most part it doesn't bother me. In a way it is a compliment that the man finds me attractive although he lacks the social graces to keep it to himself. I certainly don't welcome it. I feel that the look I give the man and returning to the business at hand in a no nonsense way, brushes the whole incident aside.

I always wonder if I should be confrontational and angry and tell these men that it is not appropriate for them to make these little comments with that look on their face. I can't imagine being a man and acting the way they do.