The Ballad of Saint Me

December 26, 2011


Every year, I get pretty involved with a canned food drive here.  This year, one of the coordinators suggested I help out with the delivery of the care packages on the morning of Christmas Eve.  “You’ve done the hard work part,” he said.  “This is the payoff.  I warn you, though, you’re going to be biting the inside of your cheek to keep from tearing up.”

Yes, I'll look quite nice in stained-glass form. I wonder if I should start wearing robes?

The fantasy: Get up, have a good breakfast, bundle up and arrive at the Elks Lodge, which is serving as the distribution center.  “How many can you take?” they’ll ask. “Whatever you need,” I’ll reply.  They’ll nod, approvingly.

The Reality:  “Ah, damn it!” Overslept a little.  Rush out of bed, fire down a cup of coffee and a power bar.  Off I go.  Arrive at the Elks’ Lodge.  Holy crap. There’s a line of people twisting through the building. I get in line.  “Wow,” I say to the person in front of me.  “I didn’t expect so many people to be here.”  She nods to someone about halfway up the line.  “See that woman? She’s been in line for an hour and a half.”

The fantasy: I make my first delivery.  The recipient is defiant, maybe even curt.  I don’t take it personally.  Their pride is wounded.  No one likes to take charity.  I say something indicating that we’re all in this together, that we all deserve our dignity. As I leave, he mutters a barely audible, “Thank you.”

Quit smiling for the camera and get your asses in gear!

The reality: Jesus, this line is barely moving.  Pick up the box of stuff; leave.  How hard can that be?  Ugh.  Should I just go home?  What kind of loser doesn’t deliver food and toys to the needy because he doesn’t want to stand in line for a while?  Fine.  I’ll stand in the stupid line.

The fantasy: Second delivery is to a family.  The kids are giggling and rummaging through the care package.  The parents watch the kids, smiling.  The younger child, dreamy-eyed, asks if I’m Santa.  We all laugh, and I say no, just a person like them, trying to help, but that the spirit of Santa certainly brought me here.  The mom says something to me about how they’re trapped, spending each month just trying to pay for the previous month; wishing they could just get caught up.  That’s all they need.

There are millions of people living in poverty and you couldn't find four more?? Come on!

The reality: I’m about 3 people away from the front of the line when the director announces, “Okay, that’s it:  All the deliveries are covered! Thanks for coming out this morning, everyone!”  WHAT??  I try very, very hard to be pleased that so many people came out to help, but I want my tearful delivery!  I could have slept in!  I bet half these jerkbags weren’t even involved with raising the food for the deliveries!  I earned my touching moment, God damn it!

The fantasy: Return home, warm with feelings of community.  Write an unusually sincere blog entry about community, about helping.  Being careful to remain modest, and to not draw undue attention to my own amazing benevolence and kindness, talk about how if everyone just helped the people right around them, looked out for their interests, we’d cement the idea of community and we’d eliminate so much of the suffering in the world.

The reality:  As I’m trudging out to my car, that coordinator who suggested I come passes by. “Hey!” he says. “Good to see you, I’m glad you came down!  Were you able to keep from getting teary?”  “Actually,” I reply,  “it was surprisingly easy.”

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About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Site in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, but sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

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16 Comments on “The Ballad of Saint Me”

  1. k8edid Says:

    The fantasy: you would perform a much needed and appreciated community service.

    The reality: You tried. Same thing in my book. Thank You.

    One year our office adopted a “needy family” for the holidays, a single mother and several young boys. We collected $$$, shopped, wrapped, planned, delivered. After admitting us to her home, the “mother” carried on an f-bomb peppered phone conversation during the entirety of our stay, while her brood of Air-Jordan wearing offspring tore into the bags and presents unsupervised, opening the gifts and trampling the groceries. My coworker and I left so without so much as a thank you, entirely disgusted.

    See, your morning wasn’t so bad, was it?


  2. natasiarose Says:

    It was totally the thought that counted. I’m whispering “thank you” right now for your commitment to the Holiday spirit.


  3. MJ, Nonstepmom Says:

    It’s so re-assuring that you and all the others were willing to stand in line wanting to help. THATS a Xmas fantasy turned reality.


  4. Kansas Keeton Says:

    Great way to turn your shitty philanthropic experience into a humorous article. I think we all experience many a fantasy/reality disconnect, but it seems to show a higher quality of character than if it had turned out the way you’d hoped.


  5. madtante Says:

    Next year, you’ll be early 🙂

    It’s baby steps. You’ve got to learn. Personally, when I’ve donated time/ effort, what I’ve found is 20 men will watch my tiny female frame lug cases of beverage from the back of a box truck (each time, I had to crawl up into it) across a yard to where it needed to be opened and dumped into a massive cooler.

    Maybe 45 minutes of this? They did NOTHING but watch. When I see loads of people and I’m busting my arse, I wish somebody’d ask if there was ANYTHING they could do. Those men were waiting for the recipients to show up but the real work (which you know, as somebody who collected and coordinated) isn’t the payoff. By payoff time, I had to go home and lie down.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Next year I’m just going to act like I’m in charge of something and march to the front of the line.

      And yes, there was definitely the “Sip coffee and watch” contingent in the food-raising here, too. Of course they still get to go tell people about the charity they were involved in.


      • madtante Says:

        I like your idea of marching to the front. I’ve often found myself in VIP (not lately, cos I never leave the ranch) areas (hotels, airports, clubs) because I’m so DAFT I don’t realize I’ve walked where I shouldn’t. Bouncers/ guards/ police let me in cos I look like I know what I’m doing (apparently–or at least don’t look nervous).

        I purposefully “crashed” a reception one time. I thought it was for a wedding at the Ritz. Turned out it was — for lack of a knowing the right term — A NUN CONVENTION. In habits. ::sigh:: I was so embarrassed.


        • The Byronic Man Says:

          I once walked in to a federal building like that. I was lost in thought and didn’t even realize I’d marched, head down, past the security station. I was also, at the time, wearing a large overcoat and carrying a backpack. The security personnel were not pleased with me.


  6. pithypants Says:

    You know what’s even more rewarding? Taking a luxury car on a test drive, putting a bow on it, and pulling into strangers’ driveways honking on Christmas morning. Try that next year. I think it really captures the spirit of the season: disappointment.


  7. gojulesgo Says:

    This is why it’s imperative to be too hungover to help others during the holiday season. Oh well. There’s always next year. Maybe I’ll bring back absinthe.


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