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Scouting Report

Among the items in today’s Impromptus is one on charity — an unfortunate charitable technique, I think. A couple of months ago, I was in a gift shop at an airport, buying some postcards. Ringing me up, the cashier said, “Would you like to buy some things to send to the troops in Afghanistan?”

Uh, no, actually, because I just hate our troops in Afghanistan.

On Friday, I was in a Barnes & Noble, buying some Christmas cards. The cashier said, “Would you like to buy a book for sick children in a hospital?”

No, because, you see, I hate sick children, especially at Christmas, and especially when they wanna read.

I duly chipped in for a copy of Pinkalicious — but, as I say in my column, “I don’t like this coercion at the cashier’s counter. Maybe I’m wrong, and I’m happy to hear another side, but I don’t really like it.”

Well, put this discussion aside for a moment. I want to share one letter from a reader — for an enjoyable story it contains:

I have the same response at the cash register I have when they call me at home: “I don’t donate to any charity I haven’t researched.” . . .

My biggest exception: Girl Scouts. I can’t resist them. Several years ago, I was at a grocery store and was charmingly accosted by a Scout. I bought a couple of boxes. As I was settling up, the Scout’s partner told her customer that, if she wanted to, she could buy an extra box for our troops in Iraq. (This was probably 2005.)

I live in the Seattle suburbs, so this lady’s reaction was not too surprising. She went off about how she couldn’t support the Iraq War, in any way, shape, or manner. Her moral indignation was total — this, in talking to a girl who was maybe in the third grade.

The lecturer probably went on for a good 60 seconds without taking a breath. When she did, I leaned over and told the poor girl, “Just because of what she said, I’ll pay for ten boxes for ’em.”

I really haven’t ever researched how much of the Girl Scouts’ fundraising really goes to soldiers, but I don’t really consider the money I spent on that day charity. I got far more than $40 worth of enjoyment looking at the harridan’s face.


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