I don't know about y'all, but this time of year I get bombarded with all manner of charity pleas, what they call "appeal letters", but I don't find them appealing at all. Since I do a lot of volunteer work, they assume I have limitless funds to give away.
As a reaction to these deliberately heart-rending tales of woe and assurances that I was the only one who could save them, I resorted to mythology to make these letters bearable.
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Periodically, I feel compelled to write another mock fundraiser just to wash the manipulated images of despair and poverty from my mind. I know there are many people who need help, and there are many kinds of help they need. That's why I've always been a soft touch and why I do so much volunteer work. But especially at this time of year, the calculatedly pathetic images and intentional teleological appeals can become overwhelming.
I created mock appeal letters and poems about mythological creatures in dire need of your help, and only you could save them.
Here was one I wrote while a grad student, written on behalf of all the witches of the woods:
Seasons Greetings from the United Witches of the Enchanted Forest!This one garnered some surprising responses. I'd written it during the "age of reason" when fairytales had fallen out of favor and the Wiccans were struggling to own the word "witch". A few laughed, but most were upset or angry. Ah well, not all my endeavors would succeed.
We're so glad to see how you've prospered from the lessons we provided when you wandered through the Enchanted Forest! You look so good now, all grown up. You were such a grubby selfish little thing when your parents dropped you off in our care.
Each tear you shed watered your maturity, and each blister built your adult skills. What joy we had when we saw them!
It was worth being shoved into hot ovens, having our homes nibbled away, spending hours over hot forges making pairs and pairs of iron shoes, building almost inescapable towers, and coming up with so many new and workable trials for you and all the other children who passed through our Forests.
But we couldn't do this without you and your parents and grandparents.
Each generation, they've sent us the tools and the coins we need to school the next generation in the harsh lessons of adulthood. You've trusted us for generations, as we trust you.
Be generous! For it is by our efforts that you have crossed the threshold from child to adult, and you want us to provide the same service to your children and grandchildren. We'll be here for you, if you'll be here for us.
A simple donation in flour, firewood, spices, black rags, striped stockings, geese, iron shoes, or even in coin will help. Please! Consider the children.
This mock letter became, oddly enough, the inspiration of my doctoral thesis.
This one, written only a year later and not near as well, was much better received, probably because everyone loves elves.
Throughout the year, the elf toilsThese light-hearted little mock fundraisers are my way of breaking the seemingly bottomless pits of despair these letters are meant to create.
to make gifts for boys and girls
dolls and trains,
horses and planes,
whirligigs and blocks
and diaries with locks
They say the elves conjure from air
supplies from which they craft with care
boomboxes and cassettes
and shiny barrettes
tinker toys and logs
and barking puppy dogs
But elves need more than magic
dwelling in their land so arctic
to craft the toys
each child enjoys
on the sacred morn
when spring is born
Dig deep in your pocket
open wide your wallet
it's only gold
when all's told
please enable a sprite
your dear hearts to delight
I know, they are hoping to cause me to reach into my pocketbook to gain relief, to guilt me into giving money to feel better, noble and sanctified. Maybe it's just me, but money has never been my solution for anything. I don't get relief from giving away money or from therapeutic shopping. I get relief from doing things, from making sandwiches to give the hungry to scattering edible plant seeds in the waste spaces of town, from teaching wildcrafting and cooking and survival skills to others to handing out blankets to the homeless, from hammering baseboards into place in a home built for the poor (well, until I realized the people receiving those homes I labored so hard to help build had to earn more money than I did in order to qualify for the home - I'd thought I was working to help the poor - poor being people less financially well off then me, not people wealthier than me - Habitat for Humanity lost a good volunteer the day I learned that) to opening my own home to the displaced in disasters. I rescue people as well as critters.
And I write. I write mock fundraising campaigns to relieve the oppressive mood created by such begging letters.
I will end this with my most successful mock fundraiser: my "Save a Satyr" campaign:
Pity poor Sylvan the Satyr!I wrote this in California in 1973 as part of my doctoral dissertation, and read it at a "Bad Poetry Night" open mike in Chicago in 1992. Oddly enough, half a dozen people in the audience wanted to contribute to the Satyr fund on the spot. I had to remind them satyrs were mythological beings and asked that they donate their funds to real causes. I posted the poem on a blog I had at the time, and even today, I still have people wanting to "save a satyr". To date I have not collected one single penny to actually save any satyrs. If I ever find a satyr, though, I will endeavor to do what I can to ensure it lives a comfortable life, and will accept donations at that time for that purpose.
In a world demystified
He suffers as only a satyr can
The laughter in the greenwood has died
Sylvan struggles sans elf to call his own
Of a nymph’s love is he deprived
He lacks even a teddy goat to cuddle
No playmates for games of seek and hide
Lurk anywhere near poor little Sylvan
Only his time can this sad satyr bide
In a horror of abstinence and sobriety
“But what can one Pagan do?” you cried
The answer is, “You can save a satyr!
Through our sponsorship program worldwide
For just fifteen dollars a month, you can save Sylvan
There is no obligation on your side
You may withdraw at any time, but don’t wait –
With wine and nymphs you can keep Sylvan supplied!”
This was among the first but not the last mock fundraiser I wrote, and it has remained my most successful one - in terms of capturing people's attention and desire to participate. There's just something so appealing to a satyr clutching his little teddy goat and playing with nymphs.
And if you enjoyed those, you'll really enjoy the Tops tonight: Top Comments, Top Mojo and the lovely, lovely Picture Quilt!