Sunday, December 7, 2008

The No-Time-For-An-Update Update

Em had an initially Very Disappointing Day today, wherein her soccer team lost its second playoff game in these double-elimination playoffs, ending their (really wonderful for many reasons) season. At the end of the game she was told by her coach that she had apparently missed the cutoff for the all-star league by just a couple of girls; he wasn't at the 'draft' because he was coaching their game, but the report he got didn't include her name.

So it was a double thrill when Coach D called tonight (and left a message on Baroy's cell, AND emailed Baroy as well) to tell Em that she had indeed made the team, and was she interested in playing for him during the All-Star season?

You could have read the fine print on a contract using the glow of delight from her face. Me, I was kind of looking forward to being done with soccer for the year. But I can't begrudge her this. She so loves playing this game, and to be singled out as an all-star, after being the highest-ranked of the younger half of the team...Like I said, I can't begrudge.

Go, All-Stars!

I went to a short adult-ed class at my synagogue this morning, where we talked about Chanukah and its meaning and how to make it more meaningful, etc. At the end, I asked my rabbi about the whole new book thing, and it's official: I need to let it go.

Well, that's giving myself a little too little in the way of credit. What he actually said to me, in short, was that it was perfectly reasonable for agencies/groups/organizations to ask for new and unwrapped toys and even books. But he also said that it was perfectly reasonable for me to respond to that by saying, "In that case, I don't have anything to give you," and to go off and find a group that would be happy to take what I have to offer. And, most importantly, he said that while, yes, there is this commandment to give tzedakah (a Hebrew word which both does and doesn't mean charity), there is no commandment that says I have to give tzedakah to my school district's Healthy Start program. If what I have or want to give does not match up with what they need, I should move on. I shouldn't resent them, but neither should I feel badly for not doing it their way.

And so that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to let it go. I'm even going to try not to make a big (OK, bigger) deal over why I'm not giving to this specific toy and book drive. I'm just not going to give, and I'm going to try really, really hard not to assume that I'm being looked at as a cheap Jew for not giving. I will, instead, bring my gently used books to the places my rabbi suggested today, and if I am asked by anyone at school, I will say that I've already done my charitable giving for the holiday season and leave it at that.

Or, at least, that's the plan.

Now, if I can only stop myself from snarling at the gay-hating evangelical Salvation Army crews outside every single frigging supermarket in the world right now, I'll be damned near eligible for sainthood. If Jews had saints, I mean. And if saints were allowed to curse like sailors.


Green said...

Hey, there's a reason "I gave at the office" became a cliche - because people really DO give elsewhere and then don't feel obligated to give at another time.

You have NOTHING to feel bad about. Think of it as, they're just letting you know of one other option for where you can give what you have to give. They don't meet YOUR criteria, it's not you who doesn't meet theirs.

Congrats to Em.

Heidi said...

I don't disagree with you and I hope this doesn't come off that way, but I hope I can maybe give you a little bit of a different perspective.

I think it correllates a little to your comment to the effect of you hope you don't get looked at as the cheap Jew for not giving to this particular cause. You don't want to be arbitrarily judged based on stereotypes, which is perfectly understandable. No one does.

I, myself, have spent my life hoping not to look like the poor, dirty kid who for some reason gets free lunch at school when all the other kids have to pay. Even though I think I stopped outwardly looking like that kid a long time ago, inside I may always think everyone sees me as that kid.

And getting used items as Christmas gifts would keep a kid who has that same feeling in the same exact place. Already, I think, this kid feels like he is not good enough and somehow because his parents don't make quite enough money, he doesn't measure up to his peers. Used gifts, no matter how great the condition, feed right into that.

Maybe it's also this: used gifts at Christmas seem more like charity than like gifts. Does that make sense at all? Like when "charity" becomes a negative word and not a positive one?

Another factor might be that Christmas in its essence is bright and shiny and new and hopeful. And as much as used things are perfectly acceptable, especially at other times of the year, when need is just need, they also feel -- to me (or the inner poor kid in me) -- like "just not good enough." Not like the toy or book isn't good enough, but like the kid isn't good enough to have deserved a new toy or book -- at Christmas, no less.

I don't think I'm doing a very good job of explaining this, and I one hundred percent respect your viewpoint, especially since you shop at thrift stores yourself. And maybe part of it is that I have a gentile's perspective on Christmas (having grown up celebrating an entirely secular sort of Christmas) and it kind of hasn't ever been your thing. (Ironically, I work for a Jewish non-profit agency now and really enjoy it.) But I hope I was able to give open up at least a slightly different perspective on the subject.

Meg said...

So hapy for Em!

Also glad you resolved the new vs old charitable contributions so we didn't have to debate it again. I wish there were more places besides the Goodwill store to take the gently used toys and books that are clogging my basement.