Carolyn Hax over at the Washington Post had an interesting response to a predicament I am sure most of us have encountered. What happens when a kid asks you to support an organization you disagree with, like, let’s say the Boy Scouts. Read on:
Arlington VA: A friend is so angry at me. Her son who’s about 11 is in a scout troop and I ran into them both outside the local supermarket. They were at a sales table and he asked if I would buy some merchandise to support the scouts. I told him very sweetly but firmly that I don’t support the organization. He asked why, so I told him it was because of their policies on with religious tolerance and homosexuality. Now his mom won’t speak to me. I don’t have children so I didn’t realize that at age 11 maybe kids aren’t prepared to hear that kind of information? Am I a complete bozo and should I keep apologizing? I’ve already said I was sorry a few times.
Carolyn Hax: For the record, I think this mom’s refusing to accept your apology and let you off the hook is the way bigger bozo thing to do.
But next time you see a friend’s kid at a table selling things to raise money for his group, and his group is not Skinheads of America, pay the $5. Even when you don’t agree with the policies of the parent organization, the kid is still 11 and your five bucks is sending him camping.
I had a similar incident when Ari’s school sent home boxes to collect funds for UNICEF. I am uncomfortable with the organization’s stance on orphanages and international adoption — they are against both — but in this case, we were told that the money would be used for water sanitation in the developing world. Also, I wanted young Ari to learn how to ask for money to support a cause so I went door-to-door with him.
One of our neighbors was very supportive, but a guest at her house wasn’t. “I would never support that organization,” she proclaimed in front of everyone, including the kids. “They are against international adoption!”
Of course, she was right. And, initially, I was conflicted about helping out with the fundraiser. But what about UNICEF’s other programs?
Not surprisingly, Hax received additional responses to “Arlington, VA’s” question.
WOW. Absolutely NOT. I know of the organization in question, and I, too, choose not to support it for the same reasons. And I do tell the scout masters that. Look I get it that the kids aren’t to blame. But you’re essentially condoning discrimination when you give them money. Remember the protests and sit-ins in the 1960s? Same thing here. Just because a cute kid is peddling stuff doesn’t mean the bigger picture isn’t important.
If we dont’ stand up to this, who will then?
It’s wrong. I don’t want my money going to such a group.
Carolyn Hax: I knew this was coming, and I don’t disagree–absolutely tell the scout masters. Tell the parents, too, out of earshot of the kids. “I’d really like to support Johnny, but I take strong exception to X policy of the parent organization, and I can’t in good conscience contribute to a fund-raiser.” Bonus points for adding: “How would you like me to handle this with Johnny right now?”
But my answer was honest based on what I would do if put on the exact same spot: If my friend’s 11-year-old were standing there with boxes of Not Overtly Inappropriate Do-Gooder Club Cookies, I would give him the $5. For the kid.
Now that we’re on the subject, I wish kids wouldn’t be asked to sell things to raise money. It just hits me wrong. I realize that means I shouldn’t encourage the practice by buying things, but it’s not the kids’ decision to do this stuff. And I did once win red line seats to the Caps from a raffle ticket Kenny and I bought from some Little Capitals players …
In all fairness, schools and non-profit organizations that cater to children need to raise funds. Having the people who the money is helping front and center, is really helpful. Here is another view on the matter:
Re: Scouts: I think the asker actually did the right thing here, though in the wrong way. It’s completely legitimate to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t today.” without getting off into apparently judging both the kid and his mom. I am gay, support lots of youth organizations, and do not support the Boy Scouts. For that matter, if I had a kid who was doing a fundraiser for his GLBT group, I probably wouldn’t be mad at my fundamentalist friends for politely declining to give, though I’d be VERY upset with any of them who preached at him about it.
Carolyn Hax: Wraps it up nicely, thanks.
And those of you who agreed that just saying to Johnny, “No, I’m sorry, I can’t buy anything today,” is the way to go, you’re right. It is okay to say no to Johnny. I’m just a sap.
Oddly enough, I’ve never had to face the Boy Scout fund-raising question myself–never been asked. Girl Scouts, different story.
Anonymous: Not to get too far off track, but you’re refusing $5 to an organization whose primary purpose is to teach boys to lead lives of service. As far as I know, the Boy Scouts do not deny service to any individuals, nor do they teach boys to deny service to any individuals, but do deny some relatively well-off men the ability to take boys camping; contrast this with the Salvation Army, which actually does deny service to vulnerable individuals because of their sexuality. As a gay person myself, not that it should matter, I would happily give an 11 year-old $5 for the Boy Scouts, because they serve a much larger purpose than the one I object to. Bottom line: keep principles in perspective.
Carolyn Hax: I was going to move on, but I thought this was really interesting, thank you.
I like it in particular because it speaks to nuance–I think we all know intellectually that thoughtful, principled people can disagree on moral issues, but it’s so much more useful to see people spelling out the thought processes that take them to different places.
As you can tell, a lot of people had something to say about this issue:
Girl Scouts: To be clear, the Girl Scouts don’t have the same anti-gay policy. The organizations aren’t related.
Carolyn Hax: Yes, I know, sorry I didn’t put that out there.
What say you about children and fundraising? Do you have a personal philosophy or policy on this matter?