… that’s what I am.
This is the conclusion I came to after I reflected sadly in recent days over how I let a high society dame swipe $50 from me in the name of charity when all I wanted was buy a book for $20.
Why didn’t I say “no” when I handed her a $50 note, fully expecting to receive my change, but she said, “Lucia” ever so sweetly and insincerely, “you want to donate the balance to the scholarship fund?”
I actually had no such intention or inclination but I was so taken aback at her audacity that I was at a loss for words momentarily. Then I said “OK” somewhat weakly and unenthusiastically. She, the brazen fund raiser, said a brief “thanks” and was already “charming” the next sucker before I could even gather my wits together to demand a carrier bag for the $20 book for which I had paid a reluctant extra $30.
Now contrast this with the firm folded palms “salem” and “no, thank you” I always dish out to volunteers at the Tan Tock Seng Hospital who invariably gather at the start or end of the hospital’s main escalators trying to sell stuff to raise money for needy patients.
Why can I say no to needy patients when I could allow myself to be intimidated to part with $30 ($50-$20 for the book)?
I can only put that down to cowardice. I was instinctively afraid to offend the high society dame. I was afraid to say “no” and make her lose face since there were many people around. And possibly I was also afraid that the people milling around would consider me mean or couldn’t spare the extra money.
Yup, like it or not, I want acceptance even from people I don’t particularly care about or strangers that I don’t even know.
Then why was I so brave to turn down fund solicitors at TTSH?
Guess I go to the hospital on such a regular basis that I have already grown callouses on my heart. I am less afraid of the volunteers thinking me mean since droves on either side of me also say no or just ignore them. At least I acknowledge their request — even if I don’t give in.
And worst of all, I probably value the opinions of the volunteers less than I do the fellow guests at the book launch, even though the majority were as unknown to me as I to them. But socially I most likely placed them subliminally above the hospital fund raisers.
Which makes me a snob of the worst kind. And a coward to boot!
Since I have for some time decided not to donate to organised charity — a decision taken long before the NKF and Renci sagas among others but strengthened in the wake of the scandals — I should have been as firm with the society dame as I am with knick knack fund raisers.
But I wasn’t.
So I resolve to do better the next time a well heeled tai-tai tries to intimidate me into parting with my money, or at least more than I want to!