Do you see what Ruth sees?
It came via postman in a slightly battered cardboard sleeve: correspondence from Habitat for Humanity. A whitish silvery cardboard envelope with little pseudo stars tastefully embedded. Auntie Ruth’s snail mail is beginning to spam a lot like Christmas. With trepidation, Ruthie opened it up.
Now, Ruth loves Habitat for Humanity. Some years back, she and her spouse joined others from SN&R in refurbishing a house for a deserving family in Oak Park. Habitat builds houses around the world that are “simple, decent and affordable.” They use volunteer labor and donations of money and materials. The homes are sold to “partner families” at no profit and funded with affordable loans. It pays attention to green building and energy efficiency—i.e., it is aware both of the environment and the economics of poverty.
And so how cool is that? And for Ruth, who could hoist a hammer to pound a nail and put out her eye instead, a day spent in the housing trades is a day spent in wonderland. Sure, there were a lot of guys bustling around with a knowing air, contractor’s licenses and those big leather belts that hold a hammer, a screwdriver and a dump truck. They measured things and wired lights and made the plumbing flush. But there were also a number of neophytes, like Ruth, who could paint a room and not hurt anybody.
At the end of the day, covered with paint and sawdust and blisters, we handed the keys to the house over to a nice family of five. Who were thrilled. We all were.
So, sure. Ruth will give Habitat for Humanity money. The sweat off her back. A blister or two. Sure.
But there, in the battered cardboard envelope, were 12 utterly forgettable Christmas cards and envelopes, on paper evidently not recycled. The smaltzy snowman, cartoony dove. and the Rockwellian kiddies by the hearth. Everything Ruth needs to be the tacky holiday wish giver she’s strenuously avoided being her whole life.
Times are rough in the nonprofit world, no doubt, and this was only a ploy to grab Ruth’s attention toward a donation. But please, Habitat: Stop doing this. We don’t need your labels, your cards, your envelopes. Trinket me less. Mother Earth is begging ya.