I understand why we do it, but it seems so embarrassing. I mean the habit at charity lunches of trotting out some poor woman (a man would never subject himself) to tell us about her tragic life and how with the help of some very good (white) people she turned her life around and now has all her children back (except one, unless I miscounted). Then we in the audience cry and give money. I know it's important to help, and the recipients are commendable. It just seems like there might be a better way.
Since I'm not clever enough to figure out what that is, I put on my stupid dress (it’s hard to do “daytime” well) and rush to the event. I listen to the sad story of Carolyn hoping to God I never have to stand up and tell a room full of strangers all the embarrassing, shameful things I’ve done. Like that time in college when I…well anyway, it would be awful, and I don’t think I’ve done anything since then that’s good enough to warrant anyone giving me money.
Carolyn finishes her sad story, and the celebrity host takes the stage. She looks at Carolyn for a long time…a super long time. Sort of uncomfortable really until we realize she is saying, “I see you Carolyn, I really see you” with her eyes and body language. She then turns her full-wattage star power onto us and says, “If you think Carolyn’s story is an original one…You…Are…Wrong.” We all try to avoid looking at Carolyn. “There is a Carolyn born every minute!” Carolyn shifts in her seat. “There are MILLIONS of poor, depressed, hopeless Carolyns!!” Did Carolyn just mouth “I’m fuckin’ outta here”? “It is OUR job to help all the Carolyns and all their children!” We nod uneasily. “It is our responsibility to feed these poor hungry children!” Well, yes, terribly important to feed the children. “When I see hungry four year olds, teaming through the streets, scavenging for food, I say it’s a disgrace!!” um, yes, but maybe she hasn’t been to Market Street lately. It’s not pretty, but I don’t think…“FOUR YEAR OLD ORPHANS!! carrying two year olds on their backs, digging in the gutter for a few scraps of food!” whaa…wait…in San Francisco? We’re confused until we realize she’s bypassed Market Street and is now deep in Calcutta. We try our best to keep up with her until, finally, she is spent. She grips the podium and lowers her head. Her body gently shakes, and we know she is quietly crying.
Her goodness has overwhelmed her, so we wait politely for her to gather herself. She does, then asks us for money and we give it.