The gifts that keep you giving

Opinion

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JUDY BAAR TOPINKA

I think I have been the vicim of identity theft, though not in its traditional, perverse sense. Someone somewhere has sold my name to just about everyone in the world, it seems now judging by the mail I get.

The usual constituent letters still come to the house over and above the office, and the bills are never late. But, they are, by and large, eclipsed by the sheer number of solicitations for money for every issue or ailment known to Man.

I am feeling sorrier and sorrier for my mail carrier who has to cart this stuff around on his/her back, over and above the various catalogs, which also come in by the ton. My gosh, but we are killing too many trees!

There is no question that government funding on all levels has been cut for all sorts of charitable efforts, and so direct mail campaigns seem to have filled in the void.

I have had more than one person ask me if they have to contribute to various political requests which come with regularity to them. Some have just about gone broke thinking that they have to contribute to the plaintive, guilt-inducing messages which spins from these solititations.

I always tell them that they should pick and choose what makes the most sense to them and to contribute there, tossing out all other requests without guilty feelings. You can still be a good Republican or Democrat without contributing to every letter.

I really resent the ones which come to me in envelopes that mimic official mail. That adds to the confusion on whether or not to contribute. Such verbiage as "confidential," "personal," "exclusively to" and other phrases really lay it on that a missed check will cause civilization to fall.

Envelopes arrive looking as though they are from the IRS (always guaranteed to cause a temporary loss of breath) or from Congress or Immigration, guaranteed to get a rise out of the poor recipient.

How many times can an organization hit you up, too? I have more stickums with my name and address on them and cute little dogs, cats, Christmas decorations, flowers and the like than I could ever use in one lifetime.

At first I paid for them and kept them. Then I just kept them (it is legal to accept unsolicited goodies). Then I just tossed them out. My recycling bin continues to grow with these rejects from political groups, humane societies, diseases of every kind, church groups, veterans groups and auxiliaries and on and on and on. All are good causes, but I just don't have enough money to go around as most people don't.

I still think it is important to give to charity, and to give as much as a person can reasonably afford. I, for one, have my local humane societies, my two favorite historical churches, and my desire to keep various historical monuments in good shape and flush for future generations. Then there are the museums which need help lest they continue to raise the entry fee to such an extent that ordinary families will not be able to go.

However, give once, and you're prime for every other organization willing to buy lists with your name on them. Buy one thing from a catalog, and you will be inundated by hundreds ever after.

Give once to any organization, and any other organizations of similar fare will find out about it and figure that you will be good for another pop. Judging by the numbers of groups making solicitations through direct mail, millions of dollars must get collected this way.

We were all delighted to have Congress crackdown on telemarketers if we we submitted our names to a list. Would Congress only now act to keep the mounds of solicitations at bay as well, not to mention those companies which continue to send me solitications via my fax, using my paper and ink, no less!

And so, be charitable, know to whom you are giving, give to those whom you know will get the best bang for your buck ... and pitch the rest, in the recycling bin, of course.

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