Thursday, November 06, 2008

Freebies that aren't

'Tis the season for unsolicited gifts in the mail. In my neck of the woods, it starts after Halloween runs straight through Christmas.

I'm sure I'm not the only household that gets unsolicited freebies from charitable organizations. You know, stuff like Christmas cards, note cards, calendars, notepads, and enough address labels to plaster my entire house. Given that I hardly ever send anything by post anymore, the address labels are practically useless. Yet, over the last number of years, they keep coming and coming and coming. Sometimes they're from organizations that I already support and sometimes they're from organizations that I've never heard of.

Usually, there is a nice covering letter either thanking me for past contributions or encouraging me to support their much needed work or new project; they go on to say they've enclosed a "gift" for my invaluable support; and they all have one purpose - to prey on feelings of guilt (because my generation has been conditioned to believe we shouldn't get something for nothing). They are even thoughtful enough to include self-addressed envelopes and return cards with helpful boxes to tick off "suggested" support amounts.

Frankly, I don't respond well to this kind of coercion.

Years ago, when I first received these solicitations (and solicitations they are), I would feel guilty and write a cheque to pay for something I didn't want or need. Then I'd get even more letters and pleas for more donations. One day, I finally got fed up. Attempts to guilt me into making donations just made me angry.

For the charities I already support, I will continue to support with or without the freebies. I'd rather they save the money spent on postage and merchandise and put it to better use. As for organizations that I've never supported before, they will not gain my support by using these types of tactics.

This year, there seems to be a new gift idea - shopping bags. Maybe they figured out that people can only use so many address labels. This week, I've received two nylon tote-style shopping bags. I wonder how many more will come before Christmas.

I'm Hopeful

At some point someone will put up the worldwide numbers about who and how many people followed and watched the US election night results. I suspect the numbers will be unprecedented. What I do know is that on election night, Canadians were more than slightly interested in the outcome.

Almost everyone I know was either watching TV coverage or following the election results online. My son without a TV went to a neighborhood pub and watched in a party-like atmosphere and when the results came in, everyone cheered, clapped and stomped; here, at home, I watched with my husband; my younger son followed on the internet between working on a research paper; people at the NHL hockey game in town listened with earphones on their radios and when the results were shown on the Jumbotron over centre ice - the hockey fans stood and cheered. We watched John McCain concede defeat in a most gracious and conciliatory speech and we watched Barack Obama deliver an inspiring and hope-filled speech for Americans - a speech that touched and was just as meaningful to those of us outside the US. Later, both of my sons told me they had never heard anything as awe-inspiring and powerful in their lives. I haven't heard anything like it since JFK, RFK and Martin Luther King Jr.

It's only been two days after the US election and the euphoria is starting to wear off. Now, the real work starts.

I hope the people who cried and cheered during Obama's speech stop and ponder the content of his words and what he was asking of the American people. I hope they take on board the ideals he expressed. I hope they're patient with him and with each other. I hope there will be a change for the better because, like it or not, as the US goes, so goes much of the world.