Family Holiday Letters: Even more obnoxious when they double as a fundraising opportunity...

Family Holiday Letters: Even more obnoxious when they double as a fundraising opportunity...


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Did you get one of those dreaded "holiday letters" this season?  You know what I'm talking about--the computer-generated-two-page-letter of B.S., complete with a photo of the clowns in matching sweaters and cheesy smiles.  Nothing makes the recipient of one of these feel more insignificant than a family holiday letter will.

I'll admit I've rolled my eyes through several in my lifetime...and, I can't lie, at the same time laughed my ass off.  I wish Hallmark would come out with the perfect card to send in reply--something along the lines of a "who-gives-a-sh*t?" card.  Who cares if your preschooler has mastered snack-time keeping his grubby hands to himself??  Who cares if your high school senior is headed to "state college" to stay close to mom's home cooking??  Who cares if your family income is the proud recipient of a 1% cost of living raise courtesy of the new employ you began back in February??  And, really, who cares if your beloved cat, Frisky, lost his battle with an obstucted bowel??  What I can tell you is who couldn't care less--and that would be ME.

I can read between the misspelled-poor-grammar-filled-lines (this part of the dreaded holiday letter makes me smile, it just makes the tedious reading that much more worthwhile).  The four-year-old, Little Billy, is a will only get worse; the future, below-average big man on campus doesn't like his mother's cooking so much as he likes the idea of going to the only school of higher learning that has sent an acceptance letter; the husband's job is the only entry-level position available for someone with his bad attitude and lack of team-player skills; and as for Frisky the Feline--oh, cry me a river.  They've only had the cat for two months, how the hell attached can they really be?

Even more obnoxious than the standard holiday letter are the knuckleheads who include paragraph after boring paragraph about the "little effers" they are raising along with the play-by-play of their overachieving accomplishments.  Just when you think you might have reached the end of the nauseating, ahem, long story, they hit you up for a contribution.  All these activities Junior and Precious are fortunate enough to qualify to participate in are costly.  And, naturally, in order for the munchkins to realize their dreams and make memories that will last a lifetime, all I need do is send a check in the enclosed self-addressed stamped envelope. "Won't you please consider"?

I do not feel I am alone in my feelings regarding the "holiday letter".  Nor do I consider my opinions regarding use of this venue to pimp-out money for their kids latest hair-brained-hobby off-base.  I ran into my neighbor, Mrs. Kravitz, at the mailbox recently where she had just received one of these letters of love from her niece's family.  Needless to say, Kravitz was not pleased.

She waved the letter in my face muttering about those "no-good-SOB's".  And, when she calmed down long enough, like clock work, Kravitz shared the story.

Seems she's been getting a letter from this lot for the past fifteen years.  And for the past six, she has sent a check in the amount of one hundred dollars; a donation to help out her niece.  Prudence wants to achieve her dream and create lifetime memories as a ballerina.  Tutus and toe shoes are expensive--but the kid has starred as the Sugar Plum Fairy for the last five years in the Nutcracker Performance at the Downtown Little Theatre. 

My neighbor's one-hundred-dollar tax-deductible donation gets her two complimentary tickets to the matinee performance a couple of weeks before Christmas, along with her name printed in bold 16-point font as a benefactor in the Official Nutcracker Christmas Program.  And, it goes without saying that collected monies support a great arts' program and the kids who participate.  Until early this past December, that was good enough for Kravitz.  Apparently, not anymore.

Normally, I avoid Kravitz and her piss and vinegar attitude like the plague.  This particular morning, I welcomed the invite to step inside for coffee and a peek at something she told me had to be seen to be believed.

I sat at her kitchen table as she poured the coffee.  After placing a steaming mug in front of me, she went over to the counter and retrieved a copy of the Official 2010 Nutcracker Christmas Program.  She asked me to look through it and see if I could find her name.  I looked up and down the columns of listed benefactors.  There was nothing to be found if looking for a donation from Mr. and Mrs. Kravitz.

She grabbed the program from me and turned to the first page of names listed, pointed to a long list of donations made in the name of one Jim Dandy.  There were six.  She claims her brother and sister each made a donation--her cousins Edna and Ethel had as well.  None of their names were listed as benefactors either. 

That's when she started muttering about the no-good-SOB's again.  She couldn't believe the nerve.  Here, her niece's family had asked for and accepted donations, yet took the credit.  Kravitz couldn't get over it.  Just take a look at how dandy the Dandy's look in the list of benefactors.  Was it any wonder why Prudence is the Sugar Plum Fairy year after year.

She tossed this year's letter and SASE in the garbage, saying it was a perfectly good waste of a stamp.  Mrs. Kravitz claimed she wasn't going to be made a fool again.  It saddened her at the same time.  Seems the only time she ever saw Prudence was at the annual performance.

Not sure about your kids, but mine participate in what we can afford.  And we have a rule--one activity a season.  When the boy was a scout, we bought the necessary amount of popcorn to get him the badge...we ate the stuff long after the shelf life expired.  During football season, we buy the discount cards to local businesses and give them as gifts.  We've formed a network of other families in the same boat and we trade "fundraising goodies".  One restaurant discount card is good enough to trade for one discount coupon book, or a wreath, or cookies etc.

In this day and age, we can't expect the kids to peddle this stuff door-to-door, but we can't expect others to foot the bill while our children realize dreams and experience memories of a lifetime.  That's our job. 

Perhaps using the holiday letter to gain donations isn't the best way to multi-task.  I, for one, would be more inclined to reach deeper in my pocket if said child wrote her own letter--or dialed the telephone to ask in person for help with a fundraising campaign.  I'm sure Mrs. Kravitz didn't care as much about her name not appearing in print as she did about the consequence of not giving for the 2011 campaign; her favorite ballerina would never have reason to see her again.

Parents need to reconsider teaching their children about the "gimme-gimmes" and more about what life is all about ~ family and the time we spend together.  If we did, the Family Holiday Letter with the yearly updates would not be necessary.  We would already know. 

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