When Free Isn’t Enough
This is basically a follow-up to my now classic “When Meshulchim Attack” post.
I answered the door after Shabbos to find two men in shabby black coats, reeking of cigarettes. First thing I ask is if they were together, so I can estimate how much this will cost me. They say no, and the one in front pushes a laminated letter on me saying how he’s come all the way from Stamford Hill and his daughter is getting married. I read the letter to be polite, although it doesn’t affect how much I’ll give. When it comes to door-to-door tzedokah everyones got a sad story or a worthy cause and I only have so much money. The letter, true to his word, says, in badly scrawled Engrish that he’s from Stamford Hill and his daughter is getting married and he has no money. The one in back has been quiet the whole time, but when I asked if they were together the one from Stamford Hill had said that he was collecting for a Yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel. He then added that he though, was from Stamford Hill.
I ask them to wait for a minute, and go to the kitchen to inform my mother we had meshulchim. She gets her purse, only to find she’s got no available cash or change, so I go to check my wallet. I come back to the door and give them each what I feel is a reasonable amount, equivalent to around a couple of dollars each. Bear in mind, I’ve been out of work for a while, so I’m not exactly rolling in it. The quiet one in back accepts it, but the one from Stamford Hill is upset. “This is all you have? But I’ve come all the way from Stamford Hill!”
He then asks why I can’t write him a cheque, and also mentions he saw my mother digging in her purse, what about that money? After all, he says, he’s come all the way from Stamford Hill. I tersely tell him I’m out of work and that’s all the money I have. (Which is true).
At that point you want to take the money back, but you can’t. Whats the level of chutzpah required to complain about how much free money you’re getting? And the fact he reeked of cigarettes just topped it off for me. I hate when I smell smoke on meshulchim because I know how much a pack costs, and I hate to think that my money might just be financing your smoking rather than your daughters wedding. I would love to see the rabbanim put some rule in place that you can’t ask for money until you stop spending money on things that aren’t essential to living. Don’t complain about money when you’ve got a habit to finance. Even if you’ve come all the way from Stamford Hill.