Monday, December 22, 2008

Am I being a scrooge for not wanting to be taken for a sucker?

A few years ago when I worked for Boeing, each department would adopt a family to buy Christmas presents for.  The “worthy” families were selected by state Social Services and we were told they were screened to make sure the families were truly needy.  I was surprised when a co-worker told me that he doesn’t participate in this annual charity event.  That he would not participate seemed out of character so I asked him why.  He told me that he had been burned too many times like one Christmas when they collected old bikes throughout the year and, on their own time, stripped down the bikes in the factory’s shops, repainted them and reassembled them with many new parts.  He delivered the bikes that year.  He said the kids didn’t seem grateful.  One kid noticed that his bike was not new and threw it down and said he didn’t want a used bike.  I commented that one bad experience shouldn’t ruin his Christmas spirit.  He responded, “It wasn’t just one year; it was like that every year.”

So our department adopted a single mother with three young children.  I noticed the three children had three different last names.  So the mother had been making bad decisions but that was no reason the children shouldn’t have presents for Christmas.  I was part of the group that delivered the presents.  I was surprised at how young she was; she couldn’t have been more than 20.  As we entered her apartment, she had MTV’s “Yo! MTV Raps” on the TV and all three children were watching and she didn’t bother to even turn it off when we arrived.  She simply motioned where she wanted us to put the presents.  Needless to say, we never got a thank you card.  That family had plenty of electronic babysitters but apparently very little parenting.  I hope she stopped at three children and was able to become a good mother.  But the odds are not in her favor. 

The next year we adopted a family that lived in the country.  When we called the family, we were told that we could only come when the children were not home.  Which was fine, I could understand the parents not wanting their children to know that others had bought the presents.  When we arrived, there was an expensive ski boat in the drive-way with an equally expensive 4X4 truck.  As the five of us carried the 20 plus presents into the house, we were met by a huge mound of presents in the floor.  In my life I had never seen as many presents.  It looked like a mall Christmas tree made up of presents.  It must have been 5 feet tall and 10 feet round.  They certainly were not poor.  And they were probably hitting numerous adopt-a-family programs.  I then understood why Ricky didn’t participate anymore. 

The next year I suggested to the community outreach committee that we do something else instead of adopting a family which had been picked by Social Services.  I suggested we buy presents for the Serenity House which is a shelter for abused women with children.   My suggestion was accepted and that is what we did.  I am all for giving, but I am against giving just to make me feel good.  I prefer to give to my church or other Christian charity organizations.  But that is just me, there are plenty of good charities out there but you really do need to do some due diligence. 

As someone who tries to be a good steward of my money, I hate being taken for a sucker and these people thought we were suckers.   

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