As many people know at times I can be a little bit of a cold hearted person,
and if not cold hearted then certainly cynical.
Like every other retail outlet we are besieged by people coming in collecting for various charities,
"good causes" or maybe just for the local boy scouts, as there seems to be this feeling that anyone with a shop must have lots of money. I suppose the thinking behind this is that if we have [collectively] all the things that people want to own then of course we must be rich.
"You've got what we want" = wealth.
Doesn't make sense to me but it does to anyone collecting.
Initially when we opened the gallery and "collectors" came in I thought it was the norm to hand over money or goods to help there cause, so even though it irked a little at times, I would try to help.
Eventually I realised that this was happening about 2-3 times a month and it started to annoy me.
Speaking to other shop owners I was made aware that I had obviously been put on the "soft touch" list.
I was advised that I should do what the others do and tell them to go away.
I now have no problem at all with telling any "good cause" collectors to "close the door on their way out". As a result I now rarely get bothered except for the occasional opportunist with no credentials and dressed as Superman coming in and telling me he is collecting for "????????", which amounts to himself. It works, it seems if you embarrass people enough they will give you money to go away.
So, having established that there is truth to the claims that I have no heart,
I will tell you of a recent episode.
It was past 10am one morning, I hadn't been open for more than a few minutes when
a well dressed man and woman walked in.
"An early sale, could be a good sign for the day", were my selfish thoughts.
Then I noticed the folders they were holding as they approached the counter.
"I'm sorry, whatever you are collecting for I'm not interested. It's not personal but I won't give you anything", was my opening conversation.
[What ever happened to "good morning]?
"I totally understand how you feel but could we just tell you what we are trying to do"?
"No, I'm not interested. I have people like you coming in collecting for various things every week,
if I gave every time I would have nothing and have to start a collection for me and my family".
"We understand this, and really do appreciate your position, but can we tell you what we are doing"?
"Thinks"[Wow these guys were really asking for it and I was going to give it to them].
"You must be having a laugh, what makes you think I have money or goods to give away?
You don't knock on the doors of ordinary home owners and beg from them so why pick on me?
Do I look rich? [I was wearing my usual jeans and T shirt]".
"I know that it must seem unfair to you Sir, but we are just trying to collect very special things".
"Thinks"[What they want some more? OK they can have it].
"I'm sick of people like you coming in all the time collecting for this, collecting for that, a new Scout
hut, a new playing field, new footballs for the local school, oh please support us we need your help.
I don't ever see you supporting my gallery".
"Thinks" [Boy was I telling them]
" Could we quickly explain what we are after, then we will leave"?
"Thinks" [Jesus, these people are really asking for more, and I'm going to give it to them].
"You want money? OK I will tell you where 3 local millionaires live just along this road, then you can go and bother them because I am telling you that you will get nothing from me, my heart is closed".
Thinks"[That should do it].
" We just need special things and we thought this was the best place to come to".
The conversation went on for sometime, back and forth. Too long for me to record.
My thoughts were, 'these people are really serious, they just keep turning the other cheek. I think they deserve to be listened to'.
"OK, tell me what it is you are after, but whatever it is you won't get it".
They then started to explain that they were collecting for research into male cancers, which for some reason receive very little funding but from which many men die.
Apparently it seems that male cancer research isn't too fashionable and most of the funding comes from charity work. It seems that the real funding goes elsewhere.
They talked for about 20 minutes and they captured my interest, mainly because they were so passionate [after all anyone who had put up with my deliberate rudeness must be passionate].
They explained that they understood that the public were bombarded by different charities and had become immune to them, so they had set out to try and raise as much money as they could in one day.
A day full of different events and culminating with an auction.
"We are trying to find things that money can't buy, then let people buy them. Different people suggested that we come here to your gallery".
I was flattered and yes without a doubt I had become moved.
Also, I am a male [Irene begs to differ], and a fortunate one. I am healthy.
I promised that I would try to find something for them.
About two weeks later I met the artist/author Jackie Morris at a large art event.
I have known Jackie for some time and what I had learnt in that time is that she has a large heart.
So knowing she had the immanent publication of a new book I approached her with a plan in mind.
I told her of my visit from the "beggars" and how they had broken me down and moved me with their
obvious passion and good intentions and explained that I wanted to do something.
To be precise, I wanted 'her' to do something to help 'them' and which would give 'me' all the credit
Those weren't my real thoughts but that is what it amounted to.
I asked would she do a unique illustration in the frontispiece of her unpublished book so that it could be auctioned.
Without a pause she said "OK, but I might not get it done until tomorrow, so come and see me before you go home". [The event was on for days]
I did return to see her many times and on each occasion she was signing her different books for the many fans that had come to visit her, but I didn't see any sign of "my" book illustration happening.
At the end of the event she explained that things had just been too hectic and that she would have to post it on to me.
"Don't forget, it's important to me", I told her.
A few days later I received an email from her telling me that she was far too busy and wouldn't have time to fit something like that in.
I was stunned, this wasn't like Jackie. Sure I know it was asking a lot and maybe I had asked too much at a time when I knew she had a lot on her plate, but this wasn't the Jackie I knew.
What could I do now I had no plan B?
Two days later as I was sitting doing paperwork when the postman came in [he had called earlier],
"sorry I forgot this", he said handing me a small parcel.
"Hhhhmmmm, wonder what this is".
Of course it was the book from Jackie, complete with a unique illustration at the front and signed.
Something money couldn't buy. Something only one person would ever own.
I had forgotten just how well Jackie understands my volatile nature and how I have no time for artists that consider themselves more important than the rest of the population.
How she must have laughed, I bet she was hoping that I would call and have a "rant" about
self important artists [then she would have laughed more].
What can I say?
A lovely gesture from a lovely [and far too busy] woman.
I feel humbled by her generosity.
As a result on September 22nd a very special book, a true "one of a kind" by a special woman will be auctioned and with luck raise enough money to make a difference to the lives of many men.