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On charity
cap, captain miss america
Good things today: My parents gave me my Christmas presents early, because we are having a lot of people coming for Christmas and it gets crazy. So today, I got mine.

I had been saving up to buy a proper television for a while now-- the TV I've had for the past two years is actually smaller than my computer monitor. Which is fine for TV watching, but not so fine for playing Wii games, which are hard to make out. But due to one thing or another, I had to spend the money I had been saving for a TV.

My parents totally bought me one. So now I have a 32 inch Sony LCD that just barely fits on top of my bookshelf. But it fits, and it's big and shiny and I couldn't be more pleased. I hooked up the cable today; tomorrow's goal is to hook up the DVD player and the Wii.

My other gift is one of those orthopedic memory foam pillows that is like ten times more supporting of your head than a normal pillow. I sneak my parents' memory foam pillows whenever I can because my neck goes out of joint at the drop of a hat, so now I have one of my own. It has a kind of chemical-y smell, which I am hoping goes away? But I figure I can spray some lavender on it or something and then it will be all good.

When I got back into the city, I had brunch, which was Irish Breakfast, with my parents, saw Frost/Nixon, which was very good, and now I think the only movie I want to see that's out is Doubt. And then I went to the grocery store.

They have one of those Christmas trees where you're meant to get a gift for a needy child and bring it to the store? So I went up to pick out a child to get a gift for. I pulled an ornament off the tree, read it...and saw the child in question was asking for a Wii.

Yes, a Wii.

I was completely shocked. I mean, I don't mind spending $30 or 40 on a child I don't know in the spirit of the holidays, but a Nintendo Wii? Most not-needy people I know can't afford to just pop out and buy one of those. When I was a kid, growing up in one of the wealthiest areas in the country, it took my parents three years to save up to buy me and my brother a classic NES. And we were not what one would consider needy by any stretch of the imagination. The Wii I have now my mother bought for me as a thank-you gift for helping out with some stuff for my brother. If my mother hadn't bought me a Wii, I couldn't have afforded it.

So I picked another ornament.

Another Wii.

I picked another ornament.

This one was asking for an XBox.

I picked another ornament.

Nintendo DS.

I picked another ornament.

Another Wii.

I tried a few more, and every single one of them was for an item that cost more than a hundred dollars, most of them being video game related. At this point, my WTFery was so strong that I stopped looking. I just-- I realize that the point of this exercise is to buy these kids something they want and not something they need, but the average middle class kid's parents can't afford these kinds of gifts for their own kids, forget for someone else's. And it's not as if they had multiple requests. Like, I would have been cool with the kids asking for the Wii if it had had another gift under $50 OR a Wii, in case somebody wealthy happened to pick their ornament and didn't mind spending $250. I see nothing wrong with dreaming big. But to me, this just dampened the entire spirit of giving I had been in, to see such extravagant wishes without really any thought given to whether the people willing to give could afford those presents.

So then I went to do my grocery shopping, and I don't remember whether I ever posted about this, but way back in like, March or April, I had some problems with a manager at my grocery store that was a half-block from my then-apartment, and I stopped going there, choosing to walk to the one that was seven blocks away instead. The one with the nasty manager is still closer to my current apartment, and I have been there a couple times when I need to buy heavier items, but I try to avoid it.

Well, that's the store I went to tonight. I left the Tree of Unreasonable Demands and started into the store, only to see Nasty Manager push a row of shopping carts head-on into an elderly customer, who cried out in surprise at being nearly knocked over by a 20-something guy and a lot of shopping carts.

"Watch where you're going!" Nasty Manager shouted at the old guy.
Old guy had happened to be facing the other direction, there was no way he would have seen Nasty Manager coming. He said something to that affect and then told the Nasty Manager that he had nearly run him over.
"Well, that's because you were in the way!" Nasty Manager shouted at him.
"You could have asked me to move," the old man pointed out, very reasonably but clearly getting frustrated.
"I just told you to watch where you were going!" Nasty manager snapped.

At this point, I walked out, in favor of going to the farther-away grocery store. Ugh.

The trouble with Nasty Manager is that because he's a manager, there is never anyone else on staff above him to lodge a complaint with when he is in the store. I am thinking about writing to the regional headquarters for the store. I see no reason why, when so many decent, hardworking people are out of work and would kill for a manager's position, for this guy to be employed instead.
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What a piece that manager is - and not a good piece. A bottom of the barrel piece that nobody uses or wants.

Also, Wiis on the Angel tree? WTF, children. My dad picked us out an Angel this year, and she just wants a Barbie doll and some clothes.

Yeah, I do some kind of toy drive every year and usually the present range from, like, Barbies and action figures to board games and books to maybe boots or a sweat shirt? I've never HAD to pick a second ornament, except for one year when the first one was something my mom thought was objectionable-- I was little at the time, and I think it was for a toy that was very violent or sexist? I don't know. But it's never occurred to me that I might have to look at my ornament to see if I can afford it, because the requests I've always gotten in the past have been reasonable. I was like, holy fuck.

That is why I don't like the general gift trees - mostly I would see requests for games rather then the actual system, which is only like $50 - but that' still a lot. And I had trouble thinking anyone with a game system more expensive then anything I owned at the time really needed me to buy them stuff.

But, giving people the benifit of the doubt, if you're not used to having any luxuries, a wii may not seem much more unreasonable then a movie or something. Kids don't always understand money - but I would think there would be parent imput somewhere in this.

Yeah, I agree-- if you already have a game system that most people can't afford, why the hell are you considered 'needy'?

we had a girl on our school's tree who wanted an ipod shuffle, and her sister wanted a porcelain doll - if i'd had any budget this year, i'd have snagged that one. i um. it might just be me? but i don't think it's really out of line for kids to ask for something that costs a bit more. they know that they're not likely to get it, and that they're likely to be one of the kids being bought something at the last minute by someone working for the agency. idk, it's all jumbled up in my head.

weirdly, depending on their age, it's very likely that their parents or someone working for that agency filled their tag out. the two years that i was on a charity tree, i wasn't asked what i wanted. my mom put down what she thought i'd want the first year, and the second year the agency filled it out at the last minute. *hands*

edited because i just went and priced wiis, and holy fuck, i thought those were cheaper. /o\

Edited at 2008-12-15 05:51 am (UTC)

Porcelain dolls aren't too expensive-- if you know where to shop, you can usually find one for about $30.

We had this program like charity trees when I was little? But they would actually have a 'Santa' come and deliver your present on Christmas Eve--it was usually a guy from the firehouse. They had a rule that all the kids in the same house of the same age had to get the same present, so that nobody would feel treated unfairly. For a while they had done all the kids the same age, period, got the same present, if you were in the program, but that didn't work out because sometimes it was something some kids already had. So then they switched it and you could request presents by house...one of my cousins was my age, so we would always get the same thing. My mom always told them what to bring, because there was no way my cousin and I would have agreed. We usually got crafts projects.

I don't mind it if kids ask for something more expensive, as long as they also specify something cheaper. Like, if you get someone super-rich who can afford a Wii? Go for it. But otherwise, the person getting your card just feels bad.


One year, my downstairs neighbors had a donated-by-Salvation-Army Christmas and...no. Nothing of the sort.

IIRC, back when Modest Needs used to do Christmas help, it usually came to around $50 per household member plus extra for tree (if needed) and dinner.

I could almost understand/accept a Wii or similar as a shared gift for the family, but...gah. It's not like we in the field are able to do that for our families either.

I'm particularly frustrated because thanks to the short check plus ice storm damages (that our insurance may or may not cover entirely) I'm really having to try rabbit-out-of-hat tricks the first Christmas Alex really understands what's going on. Thankfully, she hasn't asked for anything super-expensive - this time.

Oh, when I was Alex's age, we used to actually re-gift for Christmas because my parents couldn't afford to buy new things? So I might get one new toy, and then I would get some toys that my older cousins were growing out of, and then I would get a few presents that my parents either made or passed down-- I got my mom's old Fisher Price toys one year, for example. And I was always really excited because the toys always came with the story of how SHE got them and the different stories she used to play out with the different characters and people.

And editing to say, yeah. It doesn't bother me that the kids are hoping for it. It bothers me because it's something that most average families can't afford, either, and you're pretty much telling people that their goodwill isn't good enough for you.

Edited at 2008-12-15 04:06 pm (UTC)

I kind of wonder when those tags were filled out--like if the tags were filled out by older kids themselves in an after school program or something? I could just see one kid saying "I want a Wii/Xbox/DS!" and everyone else following suit because they liked how it sounded. Like a real life meme or something.

And yeah, the chemically smell does go out of those orthopedic pillows. A little febreze does wonders in making it go away faster, though. ;)

I was going to say this. I know that for the Winter Wishes program that my office runs, the kids filling out the letters are general kids in shelters or at after-school programs at community centers. You can tell when they wrote the letters together because they do all ask for the same thing.

We get a big mix of requests that range from socks/underwear to video game systems. Because we realize that some of the kids do ask for really expensive items, we provide a list of gifts under $40 that we suggest the donors purchase if they can't afford to/don't want to buy the more expensive gift.

I realize that part of Tea's point is that it's crazy for kids to be asking for the more expensive items, but...well, it happens. They see something and are excited about it, and they don't necessarily have a parent there telling them what is reasonable or not.

(P.S. to Tea: http://www.nycares.org/volunteer/annual_events/winter_wishes/index.php)

There was a little piece in our local newspaper for Thanksgiving about some charities and what they would particularly like, which I thought was a great idea. One gave handmade blankets to children who had to have long stays in hospital and wanted blankets or yarn. I don't have the time for a blanket (I'm barely going to finish my boyfriend's mother's scarf), but I figured I could buy them yarn, especially since I get a 25% discount so my money would go further for them than for another charity. So I bought seven skeins of this gorgeous plum wine colour in the "ultra-soft" version or something.

But, yeah. I like thaliontholwen's suggestion as to why they all said Wiis. How frustrating.

Most kids don't understand the value of things like that. They just see the TV and know a lot of kids their age have them.

This is assuming that they're mostly relatively young.

That's unfortunate. We always did Be an Angel campaigns when I was in school and everyone in my class would bring in money and then a few people would be nominated to go out and buy everything. You would raise a max of $50 per kid and if you raised more then you got a second kid.

Whenever I've done stuff on my own, I've just donated to a generic toy drive instead of picking a specific kid because I know I don't have the money for anything really significant.

But I agree with some of the others that they were probably all sitting together or something.

I noticed that definate trend when I was picking a child to buy for this year from our local needy children foundation. Some wanted a Nintendo DS, or gift certificates to the skateboarding shop, or brand name this or that, while some kids just wanted like...underwear, or a thick, warm blanket.

It was a little bit heartbreaking. I ended up selecting a 10 year old little girl who was horse crazy, and bought her a few of the nice Breyer model horses. I hope she likes them.

Yeah, I've been giving through these kinds of programs pretty much since my family was able to not be getting gifts through these programs-- so, since I was about nine or ten? And this is the first year that I was confronted with this kind of situation-- I've never gotten a request card that made me do a double-take before.

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What bothers me about it isn't wanting to have one, it's that the vast majority of the people picking ornaments from the tree can't afford to buy them, either. It's basically creating a situation where no one is happy because the kids won't get the gifts they want and the people trying to do something nice are made to feel shitty because they're being asked for presents that they couldn't afford to buy for their own kids, let alone someone else's. I wanted to do something nice for someone and I was put in a position where I couldn't because they chose to ask for something unreasonable without offering an alternative.

Edited at 2008-12-15 07:38 pm (UTC)

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Wow. Is anyone helping these kids to write their requests? Do they realise that even if someone was generous enough to buy them a console, they aren't likely to be able to actually play anything on it, if their parents can't even afford to buy gifts at all? That's sort of insane.

Well, they mostly come with games, and I really only play the game that came with my Wii...so I think if you've got it, it's fun enough on its own. But yeah, that was my problem with the whole thing was that it didn't seem like whoever was monitoring these was really managing kids' expectations for what they could get.

"Tree of Unreasonable Demands"....har har I literally lol'd. At work (and other places around town) we have an Angel Tree, but normally they are full of tags with requests for clothes, a doll, a racecar, etc. Each kid had 4 tags on the tree: 2 for clothes, 2 for toys. The general expectation is a gift for around $20-30. I've never seen any requests for video game systems. I would think that even if you could afford to buy one of those kids a game system, wouldn't it be better to buy gifts for like 7 other kids? Although, it might be nice to donate a game system to a place like St Jude's or something.

Yeah, that's what I was talking to liret about-- if I had $250 to buy things for kids who couldn't get gifts of their own, I'd rather buy 5 $50 presents than one present for one kid. Or, yeah, donate something like that to a shelter or after school program or somewhere where more than just one kid would get to use it.

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