October 3, 2008 in Features

Protect your purse from tiny thugs

Judith Martin
 

Dear Miss Manners: We always gave all the support we could to schoolchildren on my doorstep raising money for one cause or another, even if we tossed out the candy bars, etc. But then things started to get out of hand in our neighborhood with children pushing and fighting on neighbors’ doorsteps, arguing over who had the “right” to be there.

The last straw came for me when one of our neighbor’s sons asked us for a pledge of 25 cents for each book he read during a two-week period, which we agreed to. Two weeks later, he appeared to collect my pledge, claiming to have read 500 books and I owed him $125. I refused and later made a donation directly to the principal, since I had intended to support the school.

From that point on, we no longer allowed our son to participate in any fundraising unless it involved work on his part. For all other situations, we made donations. We decided to set priorities for the charities and causes we wished to give to and made contributions directly to them. It has become a budget item each month, and we have control over what and to whom we give.

Anyone appearing on our doorstep receives a polite “No thank you,” which I believe is the correct response to an invitation we wish to decline. I do not explain how I make donations or to whom, or even why I choose not to donate to their cause. Just a simple “No thank you.”

I hope Miss Manners does not find this too blunt.

Gentle Reader: Not at all. You were too timid.

Not in the polite response you now give, which is the correct way to decline. What appalls Miss Manners is that you previously encouraged children to believe that the way to earn money is not by doing something useful, but to beg, and you were even willing to hire a child to read.

Miss Manners is well aware that many schools encourage, even require, children to ask outright for money instead of washing cars or making cookies or lemonade to sell, and that many parents bribe their children to learn.

But as you have discovered, this does not make it right. Aside from the rudeness and dishonesty that is engendered, it teaches the child that working and studying lack intrinsic value.

Miss Manners is glad that you have learned better, realize you are not forced to support this, and are doing better by your own child.

Readers may write to Miss Manners at MissManners@ unitedmedia.com, or via postal mail at United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016 or (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.


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