For the two weeks until the election I will be posting an open letter every day using the prompts from CAPTAINEVERLAND to provide something nice at a time of heightened conflict and division.
Dear woman who refused to buy my raffle ticket in primary school,
I hope you are well. I don’t know your name, I had never seen you before, but I’ve never forgotten what you look like. You had dark hair, and were wearing a white jacket. And you tried to be nice to me, but still you didn’t buy a raffle ticket. And that was a traumatic experience that stayed with me for a long time…eek, I’m still scared of asking people for money for things. Because, you see, you were the first person I ever asked to buy something. That little child, wearing big headbands and a-skirt dresses like a little Blair Waldorf, outspoken with the family but shy with strangers, had never done something like that before. It was the time of the school fundraiser, and everyone got a batch of raffle tickets to sell. My parents bought a couple, my grandparents bought a couple, other relatives bought some, so did the next door neighbours, but I couldn’t ask them to buy them all…no, I bravely went to the supermarket near my house, all by myself (it was the 90s…), and stopped you to ask if you wanted to buy a raffle ticket to help the local school. And you said no. I don’t remember if I cried, but I was scared to ask other people, and after a little while I left. My parents took pity on me and my feelings of inadequacy if I went to school without selling the tickets. I think my teachers knew my parents bought them all in the end, but turned a blind eye. Nobody ever spoke of it, but the feeling of not being able to even convince people to buy a raffle ticket for a primary school fundraiser never left me.
I don’t think you’re a mean person, I don’t know why you didn’t want to buy that raffle ticket, but your action, which you probably didn’t think much of, had long-reaching consequences.
I wonder if you have children, maybe the problem was you already spent a lot on their raffle tickets, you didn’t say. But how would you feel if they were the ones heartbroken by failing to sell the tickets to someone else? If you had to pick up the tab for the people like you who didn’t buy their tickets? I don’t think you’d feel nice about it, so why didn’t you think that my parents would feel the same? Did you think if you didn’t buy them someone else would do it? If everyone thinks that way then nobody does.
When I can’t help a homeless person I pass by I always pray that someone else will actually be able to help, because I know that if we just all ignore it there is the chance that no one will do something because they expect everyone else to do so. Do you see where I’m going? Maybe I was disheartened too soon, and someone who would have bought the raffle ticket would have come. I’ll never know. Still, I can’t help but think that we shouldn’t pass on our responsibility until really we can’t afford not to. And maybe, behind the well-coiffed hair and smart jacket, you really couldn’t afford too, but you couldn’t have said that to a child. That’s ok. I don’t have hard feelings, even though I’ve spent a lifetime having a panic attack whenever I have to ask someone for money, even money that is actually owed me (unpaid invoices *faints*). How that little shy child ever grew up to run a business is something I’ll never understand. I don’t even feel like that child ever went away, really. So yes, I guess this is a lesson about being more mindful of our behaviour around children, as you never know just how deep the wound will be. I’ve sure learnt it, so I guess…thank you for that.