Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Dear Fundraising Company, (Epistolary Wednesday)

Dear Fundraising Company,

I know, I know, it’s for the school. For the children and the after-school sports and the library.  But let’s be honest: it’s for the companies, too, that make a fortune on “silver” pendants ordered through glossy catalogs full of caramel corn, soup mixes and phone charging stations. Normally, my scrooge levels crank up to full power about now. I could buy better quality stuff at Target, yet you’ve somehow gotten my children so excited about the Crap They Can Win if they sell your product to me and to their grandparents and to the neighbors. Invisible ink? By golly, it’s all worth it. Canvas the neighborhood! Call the aunts and uncles! Let them know that for 19.99 they can buy a set of melamine nesting bowls in Tex-mex colors. And why wouldn’t they?

But, I'm telling you, you shocked me with the magazine sales that Oldest was asked to participate in now that she’s a seventh grader. There’s a streak of altruism running through this set-up that’s different than any other. Oldest told me that she didn’t want the "dumb prizes” you were offering kids for bringing in post cards addressed to all the members of their extended family. Instead she was given the choice to donate a live chicken to an individual in a third-world nation. Come again? A chicken in lieu of a fake mustache? And apparently, she can do this again if she sells five more subscriptions.  Who are you—the Heifer International of school fundraisers? I love you. Wait--I’m conflicted. I mean, I want South American farmers to get chickens if they need them, but does that only happen if I order Rachael Ray Everyday! and Martha Stewart Living?

I'm not sure how to live with the irony that basic food and sustenance for an under-resourced family in the third world is supplied by way of our purchasing tomes that document photoshopped first-world lives and homes and celebrities. But it seems to be a theme here in America--we implore givers to give by giving them something, albeit less valuable, in exchange. And as disturbing as it is to me that we cannot seem to request from people the same level of generosity without returns, it seems to be "working."

Maybe you've got a CEO who's keen on providing livestock to third-world families even though she's in charge of a school magazine sales fundraising company. If that's the case, I guess she's winning. And, I'll thank you for giving my daughter the option--for keeping my living room clear of one more piece of plastic-headed-for-the-trashcan, and for sending a bird to a family in South America.

***Heather Weber is the author of Dear Boy,: An Epistolary Memoir.

"Dear Boy, is a brilliant and unusual memoir of distance and absence--the absence of a beloved brother from his sister's life and the absence of healthy mothering that, over the years, drove brother and sister apart. Weber deftly shifts point of view so that, piece by piece, readers gather the sum of confusion and loss. Yet there is so much love and forgiveness in the narrator that, in a way, each character is redeemed. I'm moved by this life, this telling of it." --Fleda Brown, author of Driving with Dvorak.

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