Thursday, December 13, 2007

In a hurry, not a total dick

I had the very unpleasant experience of walking through the Toronto underground yesterday during the panhandling crackdown protests. The unpleasantness was not due to any sort of confrontation or even catching a whiff of one of the anti-globalization, anti-hygiene professional protest groupies. Rather it was more of an internal discomfort. In full business attire, hurriedly on my way to a Bay Street luncheon at Canoe I couldn't have looked more the part of the self-absorbed, money-obsessed finance type. Seemingly I was the prototype of the person they were targeting with this presentation of guilt. What bothers me is that, at least in my mind, that's not me. At the luncheon I felt as out of place sitting in a room of spoiled, arrogant financiers who whined about the presence of the great unwashed in their underground and the great hardships caused by the mild delays, as I did with the homeless guys, OCAPers and anarchists participating in the protest. The question is how do I identify myself as someone who wears a suit but isn't a total dick? For those of us that give a crap about the plight of those less fortunate yet happen to carry a briefcase to work isn't there some way for us to brand ourselves as decent guys? Is there a scarf I can wear or some sort of button?

Outside my office there are always a group of earnest (though pushy) volunteers asking passerbys if they can spare a moment for Sick Kids. How do you answer that? By walking by you are essentially saying, "no, I'm pro-child illness". I don't have the time to stop and explain to them my views on charitable giving, nonetheless how and where I allocate it. I usually don't even have the time to say "sorry I don't have any time". Of course they don't know any of this. They just assume that I'm yet another guy who couldn't care about anything other than minimizing his taxes and maximizing his blackberry reception. Some sort of all-purpose "not a total dick" indicator would somehow express all that a long conversation with exhibits and tax receipts would without any time or energy required, while most importantly eliminating the nasty looks of disdain from the fundraising community. Sometimes people who are raising money will give you a sticker or ribbon to indicate that you have already contributed but that will usually only last for a short period. Over the holidays you may come across the same money-raiser dozens of times over a few week period. There's no way you're going to wake up every morning and remember to put on your Salvation Army ribbon or your "I support those without taste buds" sticker. Besides, there are so many worthwhile charities to support that come Christmas Eve you may look like a well-decorated general. God help you if you want to switch coats. It'll be an hour before you get out of the house with all the pinning, re-pinning, unsticking and sticking. Invariably you'll end up walking by someone you've already given your hard-earned money to with no way of indicating how wonderfully charitable you are. You'll just get the same dirty look that those greedy Bay Street types deservedly receive. I know giving should be done for giving's sake rather than any self-aggrandizing reason (the second wing of the Steve Holt home for Tom Brady's forgotten children will not bare my name) but it would be nice to at least avoid being lumped in with the selfish grinches of the world.

As far as I know no such brand or identifying piece of clothing exists. There are certainly things you can wear that say "I'm probably a decent person" (a Brian Moorman jersey comes to mind, as does a Nun's habit) or the opposite (anything with the words "Bush Cheney 04" or "Red Sox" on it), but nothing that definitively says "I should not be made to feel guilty about walking by fundraisers". I guess we can't have everything we want. As my grandfather once told me, "don't go chasing rainbows as you may run into the side of a gay bar". I don't quite now what he meant by that. Presumably the only solution is to just keep on giving. It's probably better to be a bit short on pocket change and a bit long on charity, than vice versa.

1 comment:

Curious in Key West said...

I thought you were going to write about the age old question, "Do gay couples get to have two separate bachelor parties before getting married?".

Your piece of charitable giving, while classy, fails to answer the aforementioned query.

Curious in Key West