New York can be ugly mid-winter. The cold, the smell, the mess… not the stuff of postcards.
Years ago, I could have done my small part to help. I didn’t, and I still think about the missed opportunity.
I was just out of college. We graduated into a lousy economy. Despite good grades and a great school, finding a job was tough. Plus, in those days, “pounding the pavement” was literal.
I finally happened on an employment agency worker who owed a friend a favor. The job wasn’t interesting. I spent my days totaling figures on import sheets. My annual salary? $9700.
Fortunately, I could live with my parents, an hour outside the city. But I did pay them some rent. And there was transportation into the city.
One evening, I was rushing to Port Authority to catch my stinky, uncomfortable bus. I was wearing a quilted coat I bought myself. It was almost warm. But it’s best virtue was that it was cheap.
As I rushed to the bus, I saw a woman up ahead, huddled on the ground against the building. She was sitting on a tarp or newspaper. No coat. I don’t remember if she even had shoes. My whining suddenly seemed awfully self-indulgent. God, how must she feel? What was it like to be suffering through a New York winter like that?
As I approached, I thought about taking off my coat and giving it to her. Yeah, I needed a coat. But the walk was only a few blocks. And I’d find something else to wear. My parents weren’t going to let me freeze.
But I didn’t. I worried that slowing down would make me a mark for pickpockets. You know, by the time I got my bag off, unbuttoned the coat… Did she even want my coat? Would I offend her? Did I have anything else to wear? All sorts of practical – and selfish – considerations.
I did the “reasonable” thing and walked on. And I still regret it.
Imagine how I’d feel if I’d done what my heart wanted to do? It would still be something I could hold close when I felt bad. Giving away my coat would have given me far more than that poor woman would have gotten.
Think about me and my coat when you’re talking to your donors. Don’t offer them logical reasons to give – they’ll instantly come up with as many logical reasons not to give. Give them a chance to do something meaningful, to offer a gift from the heart. And to feel good about themselves – maybe for years.