Your Message Has Been Sent

Nancy - Manhattan, Kansas
Entered on December 30, 2008

Your Message Has Been Sent

I believe in the value of working for things we want, and a recent incident re-established my conviction.

In my mail, I found several catalogs, offers for yet another credit card, and the monthly bill from the electric company, but the envelope with our address written in a childish hand intrigued me most.

I slit the envelop, removed a form letter and skipped the printed section of the letter when my eye jumped to the handwritten signature. Seeing my oldest granddaughter’s name brought a smile to my face.

The letter stated that my granddaughter’s eighth grade choir needed funds for their activities for the year. Extra expenses involved area contests, seeing an opera, purchasing sheet music and more. But this fundraiser did not offer to fill my cupboards with chocolate candy, nor did it suggest I buy a year’s worth of wrapping paper. I didn’t need to purchase cookie dough, jewelry or a raffle ticket. All I had to do was send a check in any amount to help the choir.

The letter explained that students selling merchandise wasted precious school time–class and teacher preparation time to be exact. It pointed out that students were required to handle and transport large sums of money and used up valuable academic time selling to family, friends and neighbors.

At first glance, the arguments seemed quite plausible, and helping with a school sponsored activity appealed to both my retired-teacher self and my grandmother self.

I would definitely send a check.

But as I worked on household tasks, some inner voice kept nagging at me. The letter started grating on my nerves. I kept wondering what subtle message the choir director sent to the students in bypassing selling merchandise for their funds and, instead, simply putting a hand out and asking for money. Did I want my granddaughter to think that it isn’t necessary to work for something you want or need? Just ask and the money will flow. It’s not a message I would advocate.

The situation continued to bother me all day, so I called my daughter-in-law to discuss it. I told her I didn’t mind helping out with any fundraiser, but the message in this one concerned me. Turns out her sentiments matched my own.

The next thing she told me caused my blood pressure to zoom upward. The choir teacher informed the students that they must each bring in ten addresses or they would not receive a passing grade. Another poor message, one the students will not soon forget.

My daughter-in-law planned to talk to the teacher, but on further reflection, she chose not do so for fear her child would suffer some form of punishment or ridicule. Consequently, what should have been a simple fundraiser snowballed into poor messages sent to children, threats, and fear of recrimination if someone complained. And why? Could it be that the teacher wanted to bypass something that would add extra work to her already busy day? It may not say so in her contract, but she is paid to teach the choir and handle all things that relate to it. As she raises her hands to direct the beautiful music of the next concert, every child in front of her has learned a lot more than the words to the songs.

I’ll still send a check to the school choir for I don’t want to deny my granddaughter and her classmates the educational and cultural activities the funds raised can provide, but I’ll watch for a good opportunity to help this child learn that something worthwhile is worth working for. It’s a lesson a good many adults have yet to absorb.