As we lingered over coffee at the dining room table, my wife kept writing in her checkbook, causing my curiosity to peak to the point of asking, “What’s going on? Why all those checks?”
“They’re for small amounts. There are so many requests,” she sighed.
“You can’t do that!,” I insisted. “The word gets around that you’re a sure thing, a dependable soft-touch and the ‘gimme’ mail just keeps coming.”
“But they send Christmas cards and sometimes money – a quarter or a dime,” she said.
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Many of you are suffering the same deluge of solicitations during the Yuletide season. Our mailbox bulges with them, 10 or more most days.
When I was employed on The Raleigh Times, a fellow reporter dealt with the onslaught of “gimme” mail in a unique manner.
A heavy smoker of cigars, he saved cigar butts and when persistent solicitors invaded his mailbox with donation requests, accompanied by pre-stamped return envelopes, he stuffed the envelopes with cigar butts and mailed them back. It did wonders in cutting down on his unsolicited solicitations.
There was a time when I went on line and checked out what percentage of my donation would go for the “cause” and how much would end up in the CEO’s pay cheek.
My decision on whether to give or how much was influenced by that information. When the CEO was making over $250,000, I automatically tossed the request into File 13.
One of my favorite charities is Heifer International. It may be the farm boy in me, but there is a certain “warm fuzzy” feeling in buying a few chickens or half a cow so some destitute Third World family can have milk and eggs.
That makes more sense to me than sending a donation to some politician in Wisconsin running for the U.S. Congress.
Giving is a good thing, as long as we give wisely.
The English language in its purest form is beautiful, but the versions that most of us use are less than perfect.
In a recent column, I wrote about analogies. I recently unearthed an item by the late Frank Sullivan, once a humor columnist for “The New Yorker” magazine, in which he discussed another language abuse – cliches.
In his book, “A Pearl in Every Oyster,” Sullivan discussed the overuse of cliches. In one story, he asked Mr. Arbuthnot, an expert on the cliche, what he did for exercise.
Mr. Arbuthnot replied, “I keep the wolf from the door, let the cat out of the bag, take the bull by the horns, count my chickens before they are hatched and see that the horse isn’t put behind the cart or stolen before I lock the barn door.”
Try thinking of cliches you’ve used. How frequently have you mopped the floor after someone “spilled the beans” or then gone to the henhouse only to discover the chickens have “flown the coop.”
And though you say you have, you’ve probably never really “dodged the bullet” nor “walked the extra mile.”
Furthermore, how many times have you “turned the other cheek” when you really wanted to give someone “a dose of his own medicine?”
Sure, we abuse our beautiful language, but at the same time we brighten it with occasional cliches.
My e-mail these days is permeated with suggested “stocking stuffers.” One of the more ridiculous was described as “The only all-natural, premium chewing gum on the market makes it its mission to inspire people to live simply.”
Gum inspires people to live simply? Hah! As a high school and college teacher, my wife regarded chewing gum in class as the ultimate insult to a teacher. She did not tolerate the practice lightly.
I’ll bet most of you have pulled a royal rant when you stepped on a wad of gum on the street and were confronted with the onerous task of removing it from your shoe.
As you probably know, the best way to remove gum is to hold an ice cube on it until it gets very cold and then remove the gum with some dull instrument or your fingers.
Bumper stickers and T-shirts are the message boards of America.
Pull up behind a car and quite often a bumper sticker instantly creates your opinion of the driver. A T-shirt message does the same.
One of my all-time favorite bumper stickers read, “My son is an honor student at Camp Polk Prison.”
Sunday School classmate Lewanna Stout occasionally wears an intriguing and somewhat audacious T-shirt that boasts: “God loves everybody; but I’m His favorite.”
Another Christmas is at hand. I wish for all of you a season of joy, remembering that the greatest gift you can hope for is being loved.