Last Sunday Kish and I were getting ready to take the dogs for a walk when there was a knock at the door. We opened our front door to find a teenage girl and her mother, both unknown to us, on the doorstep.
The girl explained that they were members of a nearby church. She said she was collecting money so she could go to a church camp this summer, which was her “dream.” She said she would be participating in a 5K walk, held up a generic sign-in sheet, and asked if we would sponsor her. We gave her $5. All the time, her mother stood there, beaming.
This incident left a sour taste in my mouth. The girl and her mother didn’t look impoverished; they appeared to be average, well-fed, middle-class Americans. They weren’t trying to raise money for a charity or a school or group activity. Instead, they were just going door-to-door, asking complete strangers for a hand-out so the girl could go to camp in a few months.
This used to be called “begging.” The 5K and the sign-up sheet were just a fig leaf for a naked appeal for cash.
Perhaps I’m just not a very charitable person. Perhaps I should focus on the fact that we and our neighbors gave hard-earned money to these strangers to help them out. Perhaps the girl will now go through life believing that Americans are decent, generous people who lend a hand when you are in need.
However, I wonder, instead, whether we have really come to the point where parents not only allow their kids to solicit donations for personal items door-to-door, but also participate in the process? Could this girl not get a job to pay for her dream, or hold a garage sale, or save for a few months to cover the cost of the camp? Couldn’t the family make a few sacrifices to pay her way?
This young girl probably collected more money from our neighborhood than she would from 10 hours of work at a minimum wage job. What kind of message is she getting?