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Sadly, Some Adults Don’t Grow Out Of This

, , , | Right | November 15, 2019

(The non-profit that I volunteer for has recently begun getting booths at outdoor festivals during the summer to introduce our organization to the community, to educate people about our cause, and to do some fundraising. Our booth consists of an activity that costs a dollar and lasts about two minutes. The dollar is a suggested donation, and people will sometimes give more. It is this festival’s inaugural year, so not many people are aware of it. However, it is being held at a popular park, so the foot traffic is good. I’m working the front of the booth, taking donations and explaining the activity. I’m approached by some kids who appear to be about twelve years old. They’re dressed brightly for the festival’s theme and seem to be at the age where parents drop kids off at a location with a little money with the promise of being picked up at a later time.)

Me: “Hi. Would you like to do [activity]? It’s a dollar per person donation for two minutes.”

Tween #1: “That sounds awesome! Two, please.”

([Tween #1] hands me a five-dollar bill, and I give them back three dollars. They get in line behind a few others. After several minutes, [Tween #1] returns to the front of the booth with the three dollars change I gave them.)

Tween #1: “Can we give this to you as a donation?”

Me: “Absolutely! Thank you so much!”

(They return to the line, do the activity, and leave happy. I am still manning the donation station an hour or so later when they return. Our booth is popular, so repeat customers are not unusual.)

Me: “Hi there!”

Tween #1: “Hey. Um. So, we want to buy some fans, because it’s pretty warm out, but they cost two dollars.”

(There’s a pause here, and I’m left to figure out that they’ve run out of money and need a dollar each to get paper fans. I’ve observed that kids of this age are often aware of how money works, but not the myriad of faux pas that goes with it. I’m stuck trying to decide if I’m going to be the nice adult that returns part of their donation, or if I’m going to be the one that gives them a life lesson in not requesting refunds of money donated to nonprofits. In the end, I pull out the three dollars and hand them back.)

Tween #1: “We only need two; you can keep the third!”

(I murmur thanks and put the remaining dollar back in the jar. Later, the members of our group are sitting around after the festival, talking about the pros and cons of returning next year. I relay my story with the tweens. The executive director of our nonprofit nods.)

Executive Director: “Yeah, I saw part of that. What did you do?”

Me: “It was really awkward, but I ended up just giving them the two dollars back. I figured their parents could explain to them later. I’ve been doing education about our cause all day and wasn’t up to explaining money faux pas to them.”

Executive Director: *looking for the silver lining* “That’s okay. It’s three dollars we didn’t have before.”

Volunteer: “Oh, man. That sounds like something I might have done as a kid and looked back on as a mortified adult.”

(The others agree with this assessment, and I decide not to mention to them the number of adults I’d encountered while working retail who tried to demand refunds on charity donations.)

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