This evening, a man comes to the door.
It is right in the middle of homework and making dinner and Third World Debt solving so he would have had to be delivering news of a Premium Bonds win to get a warm welcome.
He is mid-40’s and weathered, with clearly more than a care in the world.
He gets out this little card that says he’s Polish and deaf and trying to sell drawings for money. I can see them poking out the bag he’s holding under his arm and he makes a move to reveal them further.
I don’t want to get involved in this. I don’t want to give him the time. I don’t want to embarrass him and myself by looking at drawings I probably won’t like and get his hopes up and then have to dash them.
I don’t want to give him money because I’ve just spent £30 on Amazon buying birthday presents for a privileged 6 year old.
So I make an I’m-really-sorry-but-no-thank-you face (which I’ve already offloaded free today onto Jehovah’s Witnesses) and he steps away with understanding and dignity.
There’s not a shred of persuasion or appeal. He slightly raises his hand in a gesture that says, ‘You don’t need to go on’, and moves to the next house, like this is just part of the path he knew he was going to tread.
Now I’m feeling bad and guilty. So I scramble to find £5 in coins to give him because I still don’t want to see the drawings but he’s just trying to make his way in life and he’s had the guts to knock on doors.
I track him down and give him the coins and he looks a bit surprised but says, ‘Thank you’, and seems grateful but not in an ingratiating way; he’s not offended either.
I take this to mean he’s trying to earn his money but he needs it enough for charity to be an acceptable means of getting it- a powerfully poignant confrontation of pride and desperation.
Back in the kitchen, Bruno questions me:
B: Why did you give that man money?
Me: I regretted being hasty in sending him away. I wanted to help him out so I gave him £5.
B: If you really wanted to help him, why didn’t you give him £10?
B: And why did you give him money for nothing, anyway?
Me: I felt sorry for him because he’s deaf and trying to make money.
B: He’s trying to make money from his drawings, not for nothing. Just because he’s deaf, doesn’t mean he’s sad.
B: Why didn’t you look at them, then?
Me: I thought I might not like them.
B: But if those were your feelings, you would just say your feelings.
B: And anyway, you might have liked them. They might have been really good. Just because he’s deaf, doesn’t mean he can’t draw.
So to summarise on Bruno’s behalf, now the man:
1. has some money but not enough to make a difference.
2. has not been afforded the courtesy of having his work considered.
3. knows he is assumed to be talentless.
4. knows he is pitied.
Kids: if you value your hypocrisy, don’t let them anywhere near it.