Much as I love my freelance copywriting business, I struggle with a compunction to do more than just fuel the capitalist machine. What I really want is to change the world.
So a while ago I had the bright idea to seek out part-time, short-term contracts with non-profits to fit in around my copywriting work, and boost my sense of fulfillment.
The upshot of that is that I’m currently doing some fundraising work, trying to sign up child sponsors in the mall. When my youngest learned my plans he was appalled. “Oh great, so when my friends ask what my Mum does, I have to say she’s one of those people who stand in the mall accosting everyone!” Well, yes, that’s exactly what you can say, and thanks for your support!
Its been an education, hanging around desperately engaging people in conversation, largely against their will.
Most people develop a fascination with the nearest store window, or their shoes and rush past as quickly as said shoes will take them. Others are willing to risk a tentative “hello”, but a slight upward flick of the wrist, creating a subtle, hip-level stop sign with their hand, indicates that you better hadn’t try to get more out of them.
There’s a certain type who have no intention of helping, but they have plenty to say about the particular bee they have lodged in their bonnet. As soon as you engage them you can see their eyes light up with a fanatical spark, and you know you are about to be put straight on the ways of the world. You want to turn and flee, but it’s too late because the fundraising fraternity frowns on blatant rudeness. I’ve had the good fortune to be enlightened on a variety of topics from politics to the futility of charity, and strangely enough, none of those soapbox orators were remotely tempted to pull out their wallets and actually help.
We also see a lot of creatively crafted excuses – “My grandmother already sponsors” seems to be a popular one, even from adults who, in their middle age, should probably be considering autonomy by now. My personal favourite, though, has to be “Oh, sorry, I’m from Nova Scotia”. Who knew that our friends in the Maritimes have special dispensation from acts of charity?
We also saw a spy in the mall the other day. He was lurking very suspiciously, leaning on a store window wearing dark sunglasses and pretending very ineffectually to be reading the newspaper he was peering over. Well, maybe not a spy – if he is one he probably won’t last long. Maybe mall security, although I would have thought the point of plain clothes security is probably not to draw attention to yourself with the use of caricature.
I’m not sure I want to make a career move of standing around for hours on end, with a smile plastered on my face, suffering rejection over and over again. Frankly, the novelty is wearing a little thin. Although I forget the agony every time I sign up a sponsor and think about the child whose life just got dramatically better. I guess that’s the point of the exercise.