Why I will always support your kid’s fundraising efforts — even if I don’t want to.
I have a confession to make: I hate Girl Scout cookies.
Don’t worry, if your kid is a scout I will still buy a couple of boxes. I’ll probably leave them in the break room at work or let my roommate feed them to the crows though.
Why, you might wonder, would I buy something I hate? The answer is quite simple: trauma.
The truth is that I have deep-seated emotional scars from my childhood fundraisers. I buy useless crap from your kids because I feel sorry for them shilling stuff to raise money, and it makes me feel better about my own childhood.
I went to Catholic school for twelve years and we were always doing something to raise money. We sold wrapping paper. Calendars. World’s Finest Chocolate bars. We had walkathons. Collected change.
We raised money for the school, the church connected to the school, to pay for our extracurricular activities, to support missionaries, and to feed starving orphans in China.
Starving orphans in China were a big cause of concern for Catholic schools in the 1970s. I’m not really sure why, especially given what I now know about food insecurity in our own country.
At school I was what we used to call “a scholarship kid”.
People weren’t as politically correct in the 1970s as they are now.
My parents couldn’t afford the tuition at Catholic school, but my grandpa worked out a deal with the priest to get my sister Mary Elizabeth and me a scholarship to attend anyway.
Our local public schools were horrible. My parents were resigned to us attending anyway, but my grandpa was not going to allow that to happen. He wanted to make sure we actually got an education in something better than how to avoid a knife wound and what gang was best to join.
He wanted us to go to college some day, like he never could. And so we ended up at Catholic school.
The nuns at the school never let us forget we were at the school due to charity.
“You’re a scholarship kid,” they would tell me and my sister. “You need to raise a lot of money in the fundraiser to show us that you’re grateful to be here studying for free.”
Shame was a powerful motivator.
While our friends’ parents would just bring the candy bars and wrapping paper to their offices, or make the minimum contribution themselves, my parents refused to do that.
And so my sister and I would trudge through the snow, going from door to door to beg the neighbors to pay for gym uniforms or to feed the starving children.
“This sucks,” we would grumble to each other as we split a World’s Famous Chocolate bar we stole from our stash.
After a while the neighbors figured out that if my sister and I were on their porch we were hitting them up for money again. They started pretending that they weren’t home when we knocked on the door.
Their kids went to public school. Why should they support us? Eventually we learned to ride our bikes to other neighborhoods to find fresh blood to support our fundraiser.
Needless to say, my sister and I despised fundraisers.
Forced fundraising created a great empathy in me for any little kid who’s raising money. The younger the kid, the bigger the sucker I am.
Show me a sad little face asking me to buy something, and I’ll fork over some money, no questions asked. I don’t care how much it costs. I don’t even care what it is.
I never wrap presents, but I’ll buy your wrapping paper to support your school.
I don’t like caramel corn, but I’m glad to buy a bucket of it if it means your school gets new recorders for the music program.
Walking a 5k so you can go on a class trip? I’m glad to support you industrious little person, even if you only do one lap.
And as for you Girl Scouts, keep on hitting me up. The neighborhood crows love your shortbread cookies.