Girl scout cookies. Thin mints. Lemon. Oh and those delicious ones that I can never remember the name of, but have caramel and chocolate and gooey wonderfulness. Right. Caramel delights. Stacks and stacks of girl scout cookies.
As a young girl, I was a brownie—and then a full out girl-scout. Boxes of girl-scout cookies would fill the piano bench in our living room, the floor, and the end table. It is the last real fundraising I can ever remember really trying hard at—or being permitted to try really hard at.
Sometimes, I would be signed up for fundraising off of candy boxes—and the candy boxes would sit in my room until my family had gone through all the peanut butter cups, Hershey’s, Kit-kats and Krackels. Then my mom or dad would hand me fifty dollars at the end of the box and say “Now you can turn in the right amount of money.”
When I had to raise money for a travel athletic team, my parents would ask: Is there a buy out?
And in college, when my teammates and I were told that we had to take part in a fundraiser that would involve giving 15 names and addresses of people who our program could send a letter to, desperately asking for money, I submitted fifteen names of people who I thought should have been helping my athletic program.
The governor of Rhode Island.
The president of the university.
The athletic director.
You see where I am going with this.
I was always taught and raised to only take money from friends, strangers, or outside non-immediate family members when I accidentally left a few dollars at home, or really just couldn’t make it to the ATM. My parents always said something to me along the lines of: No one should ever pay for you and your team, or for you, to go on a trip…to do something that you want to do, or for your new pair of cleats, or for your anything, because trust me—I am sure their money is being saved for something that they want to do or for something that they need.
So I come from a family of non-believers in soliciting money for your own good. Money comes from hard work and dedication—from sacrifice of time—not from simply saying please. Money should be raised when it goes toward a good cause, something with great magnitude thatcouldn’t be fixed without that money: money that is truly, helping others, rather than yourself.
I reminisce on all of this as I sit on the train ride home from Manhattan to Brooklyn, as I hear the voice of a white teenage man step onto the train and begin his speel:
“Good evening ladies and gentleman,” he begins.
“I am raising money for a trip to Europe. Each candy bar is just a dollar. I have just two left. If you could please support me and my trip, I would truly appreciate it.”
As I shake my head in disbelief, I find more reason to shake my head in disbelief just moments later. Someone is reaching out the young man with two crinkly one dollar bills, and sticking their hands in the goodie box. The young man smiles, stuffs the money in his backpack, and in the next few moments jumps off the train as it reaches it’s next stop.
An Irish man is sitting across from me, and laughs, “Right on cue.”
Moments later, the automatic MTA announcement over the train intercom comes on. “Ladies and gentleman, it is illegal to solicit money…” and it continues.
And I think to myself….
“Ladies and gentlemen, it is ridiculous to solicit money for a trip to Europe, when people are dying of radiation, dehydration, and starvation across the world—when people are without shelter, without clothing, and without family—when Japan is completely and utterly devastated—when we are still recovering from the earth-shattering events of Haiti just over a year ago, and the ruins of Hurricane Katrina.”
“Ladies and gentlemen,” I say under my breath. “Please take a look at the world around you. Please tell me if you are really as in need of that dollar for Europe as much as that young child or elderly man, or middle-aged woman is in Japan, Haiti, or New Orleans.”