In the Catbird Seat/Joe Kirkish
In the good-ole-days, you’d go to your mailbox anticipating the delight in getting personal letters some in cursive handwriting, others neatly typed, all rich with their personal touch.
Then came email with a marked decrease in snail mail and a stuffed mail box with not a single personal letter, but on just one day the following:
First, a neatly printed letter from Macular Degeneration Research, with information about testing for cholesterol buildup and advanced AMD risk. You recognize this form letter; you’ve received many before, none of which stir you to return the envelope with a check. But why not? It’s a worthy charity and you are a charitable person, but such pleas arrive with increasing regularity and you begin to wonder about how much of your check will be sidetracked into incidental expenses and not research. And you wonder about the additional cost of the repeated begging letters which you will continue to get whether you’ve previously honored the program with money or not. So with remiss you toss it, unopened, into the “circular file.”
Next, an envelope with a heart-breaking photo of a child with huge, sad eyes and the caption, “Help Me See.” Oh, yes, but didn’t you just get one last week and the week before, with the same promise: “Make one gift to restore the sight of a blind child or adult, and we’ll never ask for another donation again.” Perhaps, but didn’t you compassionately send a generous check not too long ago? Into the circular file it goes while you wonder if you just wasted money for having believed the premise the first time.
Frequently your name is sold to other charities, so they multiply exponentially, all bearing on what might interest you. But the next letter is a membership drive for the ASPCA and you can’t recall having ever shown interest in owning or caring for a pet. The same goes for other seemingly legitimate pleas: Save the Whales, Rebuild a Tornado-destroyed School, etc. Into the file it goes, unopened, with dozens of others like them.
A very large envelope from the Mayo Clinic says, “Be a part of medical history in the treatment of cancer!” Ah, the 2013 drive is on – and if it isn’t for treatment of cancer at Mayo’s, it’s diabetes, lung problems, heart problems, angina, tendonitis, fluid build-up, varicose veins, being overweight, ingrown toenails, loss of memory, halitosis or conjunctivitis. You have already decided which research projects you would like to contribute to, but as the form letters continue to increase in kind and quantity, your enthusiasm (and money) recedes. Circular file.
Ah, but then what luck! You find a letter with a handwritten address. Curious, you open it up and there, staring at you along with a stamped envelope is a plea from the annual National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Forgot about that one, another need for research dough. It follows the others. Like so many of its ilk, a gift is enclosed, from a coin (up to a dime these days) to return address stamps to calendars to note cards to – you-name-it – to urge your conscience. By now the deluge is overwhelming your charity budget.
A large envelope from Planned Parenthood and another from Save the Babies, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, the Libertarians and a whole bundle from various tea parties with anti-this or anti-that, all touting a particular campaign are also scrapped unopened as the list becomes endless.
Oh, a very business-like envelope pops up with the enticing “Survey Enclosed” to intrigue you; it turns out to be a ploy, a rather general survey on some general topic, to be returned and then sent in one felled swoop to a VIP or CEO or member of the government. Oh, and by the way, included is a request to help with money. A variation is the kind that states in large letters on the envelope “Check Enclosed!” Of course, but the check is only good if you return it with more of the same for some good cause.
The above are just one day’s junk mail, with more surely to come – all created by very clever, well paid ad men, with hopes that a plea will stir you to pity or fear or guilt – to comply. But you know that will be just the beginning of many more, definitely repeated, cleverly stated missives, until you cave in.
The pity of it is that some of the begging letters are legitimate while others spend as much as 90 percent of the cash on incidentals, with even religious organizations using similar questionable ploys. And who knows what the Wounded Warrior Project or the Save the Sycamores actually is? In fact, there are too many what-ifs about all begging letters, with most of them trying anything to drain your coffers into theirs.
Americans are famous for their generosity to charities. But they want to spread their generosity where it is most needed. Your best bet is to give locally, to organizations familiar to you. Then, if you still wish to help with big name groups like Project Hope, check them out for verity in the web pages.
As for the snail mail that continues to pour in – well, at least it helps the ever struggling postal service, right? And the circular files add up to a generous contribution at the transfer station.
Rotten Tomatoes average: “Kick-Ass 2,” D-