I just got back to find life’s complexities waiting from me in various forms, one of these being the piles of mail on my desk, containing approximately 20 credit card offers, and two requests for charitable contributions. One was from the Mercy Home for Boys and Girls in Chicago, Ill. Father Scott Donahue sent me these lovely mailing labels with pictures of angels on them. I do not respond well to the little mailing labels in advance of any donation—it feels like emotional blackmail—like deaf-people who shove sign-language cards into your hands or the guys who run out at red lights and start washing your windshields and then ask for money. Plus I don’t know this organization so I’m not going to send them anything. So, how does it affect my karmic credit rating that I put the labels in the desk drawer and plan to use them on my self-addressed-stamped-envelopes next time I do submissions? It’s not that I even want to—in fact I worry that the editors of literary journals will make assumptions about my politics, intelligence and literary merit based on my apparent affection for cheese-y-religious angel art—but the labels already exist with my name printed on them and are unwelcome in the recycling bin because of their adhesive nature, so the least I can to is save them from a meaningless existence quickly followed by a trip to the landfill. That’s my reasoning.
And I do give to charities. Each year I pick one or two beneficiaries. In my college years and twenties it was usually Greenpeace or the Environmental Defense Fund, then Amnesty International, then some organizations that gave relief after the wave of natural disasters in the first years of the new millennium. Now I give to The Smile Train, an organization which performs cleft repair surgeries on children in third world countries. Their ads—often found in Newsweek— feature a “before” picture of a small child with a cleft palate, which horrifies me, and then another picture of the smiling child, sans deformity, after the simple $250 procedure. The first time I saw one of these ads, I reached for my checkbook. I have a deep-seated fear of deformity. I know its shallow, but I think that if you have no money, no education, perhaps have to resort to prostitution to survive—your chances are always better if you aren’t ugly. It’s widely known that the best defense babies of mammals have against the cruelty of their elders is merely their cuteness. Conversely, I think ugliness brings out the natural cruelty in people
So anyway, I periodically give to this charity, who now periodically sends me little gifts—including mailing labels of course–personalized with my name, which they have entered in their data base as “Seetachift.” While I was gone, they sent me a little card to put in my wallet, with a calendar on one side, and the photo of a cleft-impaired child on the front. The whole reason I send them money is that these photos horrify me. Do they really think I want to carry one around in my wallet? I hope they aren’t making plans for any wall calendars soon.