In the process of retrieving a much-needed toy from my granddaughter’s stroller parked on my front porch, I’d stepped outside to discover a white, curly-haired, slightly chunky young man about to ring my doorbell. Grandma on a mission, I think he told me he was soliciting for WGBH— but I could be wrong. I really wasn’t listening. For sure he launched into a spirited spiel lauding NPR; he even listed several programs and, to his credit, having taken note of the stroller and the toy in my hand, made special mention of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.”
“I know what NPR is,” I muttered.
“Then I’m sure you want to support it,” he countered.
Approaching the front door I turned to face him. “I truly believe in what NPR does but, no, I can’t.”
“May I ask why?” he demanded and, to my consternation, took on an offensive pose, widening his stance, inflating his chest. (My guess? He played football in high school.)
Ahh, dear reader, what a teachable moment! How I would have loved to explain to that young man that for aging Quakers like me and my husband, living on retirement funds, charitable giving is incredibly complicated. Babies starve in Yemen, there’s relief money desperately needed all over the world because of climate change, and, locally, the Somerville Homeless Coalition always needs money; so does the Welcome Project. Every year my husband and I receive thousands of nudges and tugs and polite requests and the occasional solicitor at our door. Yes, we believe in God’s unlimited love, yes, we believe that “There’s enough” but, sadly, yes, our ability to support every worthy cause— I’m not even getting in political contributions!—is definitely limited. (And, sadly, because of inflation and rising health care costs, especially medications, actually shrinking.) How I would have loved to tell that young man that it took my husband and me almost two years to come up with a careful, thoughtful formula for giving. So, sorry, young man but NPR didn’t make the final cut.
But his belligerence on my own front porch—his aggressive posture triggered something very primal and territorial—meant I was Done. And besides, I was still Grandma on a mission!
“Where to begin?” I asked, stepping inside. (Sorry, young man. That’s all I got.)
And firmly shut the door.