Friday, May 26, 2006

Shaken Down for Jesus

It happened again.

Someone virtually appears on your doorstep with a compelling story and a hard sell. It’s a good story and it does tug my heart, but even as I hand over the money I can’t help but feel guilty, angry and a little used.

I am not talking about some drunk or someone living on the streets although I am talking about being hit up for money.

No, the person who hit me up was not some person down on their luck. It was a local police organization.

First, the guy calls up and says I am Officer So-and-So of the Police. He is not actually calling on Police business. He is called on organization business. They need to raise money. They help kids. They help families of cops. They have a deficit. They are having a concert and a dance. And they have a program and they are selling ad space. Eventually, I agree on a business card sized ad and on Tuesday another officer—presumably off-duty—will come to my door to collect my check, my business card, and shake my hand. I will get a sticker for my car or office window.

So why do I feel like I’ve been, well, shaken down?

I have done Emergency Chaplaincy for most of my ministry. I have done Critical Incident Stress Management—training, debriefings, one-on-ones—for much of that time with police, fire, EMS and medical personnel. I love these guys and I know something of the stresses they do. I have done ride-arounds and helped State Troopers when they have to go to someone’s home to tell them a loved one has died or is hurt far away.

The best baseball coach my son, or anyone’s kid, ever had was a Willimantic, Connecticut police sergeant who knew a thing or two about fielding, hitting and how to reach young people.

The money I will give is supposed to go to these things.

I think it’s the hard-sell? Maybe that’s it.

Maybe it’s the hope that all of what they want me to give will actually go to the thing they want to buy. Some of these fundraisers—especially the professional groups—rake an awful lot off the top before the group even sees a dime. Even if they did this without a pro, the costs of booking bands, halls, and having food & drink takes a lot off the top.

They tell me that to make a sale the first thing you have to do is get your foot in the door. And hearing that Officer So-and-So from the police department is calling is one big foot, lemme tell ya!

If it’s for charity, I’d rather they’d come and talk to me and my mission & outreach people and see what we can do. That’s a risk, though. Because maybe the group will say “no” or “not now” or maybe on the free-market of the special offering envelope no one will give. Risky as that is, it’s transparent and doesn’t scare me to death. Or make me feel guilty.

It could be that I am tired because we get hit up a lot for money. And not all for charity.

I just had a knock-down drag out with a vendor (who shall remain nameless but is a very Big Phone Company) who came this close to rooking my church out of seven hundred bucks.

The other day, I sent back with a great big “REFUSED” a box of videos (not even DVDs!!!) of the latest sure-fire marriage enrichment program. Just try it for 90 days and if you don’t like it, send it back FREE! This is has got to be the most unethical scam of the Christian publication business. They know I’m busy and am always looking for low labor ways to do a great class. Send me a flyer and send me a sample DVD. We’ll talk.

These may be good thing, but just like I tell the drunk at the front door, I am happy to help when I can, just don’t try to trick me.

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