By Mark E. Smith
My mother raised me with her unique philosophy toward charitable giving. “Do right simply because it’s the right thing to do,” she used to say. “But, never forget that no good deed goes unpunished….”
She told me that saying hundreds of times, and I remember questioning her on it once, where she explained that we should all do good, but expect to ultimately be punished for it. Way to scare the heck out of a 7-year-old regarding charity, Mom!
Fast forward to the recent, where I was at a muscular dystrophy fund-raising ball, bidding on an item. See, the way it works is that companies donate items, you bid on them, and the money goes toward MDA summer camp. My mode is to sincerely maximize my bidding by not bidding on something that I want, but by bidding on something that might make a difference in someone’s life close to me. The money goes toward the MDA, someone close to me gets a meaningful gift, and everyone wins.
…Except for some little kid, whose summer I ruined in the process this time around. Sorry, Kid – sometimes doing right simply because it’s the right thing to do gets you punished.
This all started with the best of intentions, my date and I, in formal attire, browsing the auction items, mixing and mingling. There, we found a red-and-silver electric ATV, looking like the most fun ever for a kid. My date’s son has been doing great in school and at home, and we both thought he’d love it – so that’s what I decided to bid on. Again, my winning bid would support a child going to MDA summer camp, my date’s son would get a much-deserved surprise, and all would be great.
Now, the way bidding works is that they give you what looks like an iPhone, and you enter the item number, your bid amount, and then it tracks the bidding for you throughout the ball. A green check mark means you’re the high bidder, and a yellow exclamation mark means you’ve been outbid, but then you can increase your bid.
So, I bid on the ATV, and within minutes, I see a yellow exclamation mark, and raise my bid, likely over the MSRP of the ATV because I kind of know what those types of riding toys cost. And, then, I’m outbid immediately, so I bid again. And, then, I’m outbid again!
I then hypothosize that beyond the good intentions of the money going to charity, someone is running up the bid just to tick me off – even though the whole process is anonymous. In fact, I’m then convinced that the couple running up the bid thinks that they have more money than me – which I’m pretty sure that the busboy had more money than me at that gig, so point deserved – and then I’m really ticked off (again, even though no one knows who’s bidding on what, and we’re all eating dinner as if it’s a judgement-free zone). And, so I keep bidding and getting outbid – and keep getting more ticked off.
I don’t know about you, but if the rules don’t work in my favor, I just change the rules, a marvelous way to live. So, I decided that it was no longer about who had more money, but whose kid deserved the ATV more. And, I knew that my kid deserved it far more – even though he’s not my kid. In fact, their kid is undoubtedly a spoiled, whiny, miserable little brat, who doesn’t deserve an awesome little electric ATV. Seriously, you know how upset you’ve been when you’ve found your curbside garbage cans knocked over? Their kid did it, and he hit your car with a shopping cart on purpose, too, in the grocery store parking lot. The last thing that a rotten kid deserves is a red-and-silver ATV!
You’re probably thinking, Mark, is it truly fair of you to judge a child, let alone one who may not truly exist? Absolutely! This is the same kid who picks his nose, and wipes it on his little sister’s shirt. He’s rotten, I tell you!
So, I just kept bidding. It was admittedly no longer about the MDA in the moment, but that my kid was better than their kid (again, even though he’s not my kid). It became about principle to me. Money was no longer an object – their kid, based on his own poor behavior, wasn’t getting that ATV, period. If he was lucky, he’d do what we all did as kids during the summer, and be glad to ride a piece of plywood with roller-skate wheels bolted to it. If it took $1 million – which would never happen, but let’s say it could – I was going to spend whatever it took to prevent that kid (who, by the way, spits his chewing gum on the sidewalk!), from getting that ATV. If you want to be an ill-behaved child, fine. But, your parents aren’t buying you an ATV under my watch, Buster!
And, then, BAM!, bidding ended – and I won the ATV, for an illogical sum of money. But, let us not forget, it wasn’t about money, but principle, where a child with muscular dystrophy could go to camp, my date’s son got a much-deserved surprise, and a rotten little kid wouldn’t get rewarded for his terrible behavior. That’s a charitable trifecta in my book!
As the ATV was loaded into my van at the end of the night, I realized that my mom’s asinine philosophy toward charitable giving finally proved true. I did the right thing, and a little kid got punished for it. Karma hurts, Kid – suck it up, with no ATV for you!