June 21st, 2013


Alms for the cute

If you haven't got a penny,
a ha'penny'll do

I went to Walmart this afternoon to buy some shorts. As I approached the entry, a bunch of middle school-age girls in team shirts were collecting money in batting helmets. This is pretty common around here; lots of youth non-profits seek donations or sell stuff outside Walmart. These kids were so close to the doors, however, that I almost had to step over them to get inside. Being the history-soaked person I am, I immediately thought of entering a medieval cathedral with beggars beseeching alms on the steps. And then I thought of the various attempts by Elizabethan parliaments to outlaw "aggressive begging," particularly by those who were referred to as "sturdy beggars."

I solicit for enough charitable causes that I don't want to grump about kids seeking donations, though generally I reserve unto the adults, like myself, the seeking of extra help for our ministry with kids. We adults, when we ask, aren't as cute as the kids are, but then, trading on one's cuteness is not the best life lesson to be teaching young people. For that, I like to lead kids in doing things that provide actual value for money received. When I was a youth minister and we had a bake sale, I had the youth gather and bake all the goods to be sold, rather than solicit baked goods from families. In that way, parents didn't have to buy back the very goods they had just baked for their kids' sale. The youth gained confidence in their ability to produce things of value and better appreciated what it took to pay for the big events they wanted to include in their group's program; the adults learned to respect the kids' growing abilities and got value for their money.

I remain jaundiced about bucket shakes, no-bake bake sales, rock-a-thons and other gimmicks to raise money. Nothin' beats good, old-fashioned work that produces something of real value. Both the buyer and the seller can be happy about the exchange and what it is doing for the youth.