Take my money, please keep your ribbon.


I wear a poppy  every November without fail. I make a donation (or a few, as I seem to lose poppies left and right) and thank our veterans, showing my respect with a red flower on my lapel.   In December I wear a red ribbon to show my support for people living with Aids then quickly switch to a white ribbon to remind everyone of the tragedy of violence against women. I put my donation in the box for a beautiful yellow felt daffodil pin every April, fighting back against cancer like a good Canadian and I don little plastic bracelets with messages of support and solidarity when I am asked to buy them.

But please, someone explain to me how wearing a little ribbon on my lapel or a band of rubber around my wrist will cure anything. I make donations to causes I support, I am a regular donor to my local food bank, have a foster child through World Vision and contribute to the Red Cross. I believe in helping, I am a left leaning bleeding heart who understands that my commitment to my fellow Canadians includes sharing what I have.

But a plastic bracelet? The math just doesn’t work for me. If I make a $1 or $2 contribution for this little trinket and wear it for a few days, who benefits? Does  a sick child feel supported because I am wearing it? Are doctors really closer to a cure because of these items? The costs of resource extraction, manufacture, shipping, imprinting, shipping again, distribution, posters to advertise said trinket etc. must surely consume at least 90% of the tiny donation it triggers me to make. 

Perhaps the ribbon campaigns are less expensive…perhaps initially they were effective too.   I have quite honestly lost  track of which colour ribbon represents which illness, honours which victims and benefits survivors of which catastrophe.

I am all for awareness campaigns…they’re good. I know they’re difficult & expensive, and it’s hard to get people’s attention. Surely there is something else… something new, something concrete, something more meaningful than a strip of grosgrain or a band of embossed neon plastic.  Maybe the plastic and ribbon really do make people more aware and likely to contribute greater sums, but I think it just confuses people. 

Ask me for money… tell me why you need it. I’d really rather give you $5 straight up for your cause than feel compelled to wear something silly in order to support you. More stuff. More junk in my life, it turns me off. I don’t know if the cost analysis would work out in favour of the charity seeking my donation, but isn’t my money, without no exchange of meaningless stuff more valuable for you in the long run? Would fewer people donate without the doodads? Maybe, but what do you get at Christmas when you drop coins into the Salvation Army pail? No message jewelry, no strips of cloth. You feel good, knowing you helped out in some tangible way.

If this makes me sound like a stingy scrooge you are misunderstanding me. I’m not saying don’t ask me to give. I’m not saying I WON’T give. I’m saying please, don’t give me anything in return. I want my money going to that sick child, to that tragedy, to that cause. No swag necessary, thank you very much.