Some of the local supermarkets give you a special plastic counter when you spend so much that you can drop it into a bucket or bin-thing on your way out. There are usually three of these, with varying amounts of counters languishing in the bottom; each one is for a different charity or community group.
Whenever I’m with my mother, she passes the counter straight to me so that I can have the exciting privilege of dropping a plastic counter in a clear plastic container. It’s not even as much fun as those old whirly charity buckets with the psychedelic swirls on, these ones normally just drop. And plastic counters don’t even make as much noise as a single penny. Anyway, I’m supposed to relish the prospect.
So we toddle on out of the store, me clasping the token in an apparent state of expectation, then we get to the ‘buckets’.
I don’t know who chooses the charities or how, they are varied and seem to change every time I’m in there with my mother. There is a small typed notice above each clear bucket stating clearly the name of the group and then, in smaller letters, a little resumé of what they do and for who.
How do you choose? I guess that everyone chooses differently and for different reasons, which is perhaps the point. There is often a fairly even distribution of counters across the three buckets. For me, mental health groups get my vote, followed by those for people with ‘learning difficulties’ then the occasional random group for people with very niche problems that attract little interest or support. I instantly categorise, we all do, establishing a hierarchy of need. Personally, I don’t think the preschools have much need of my plastic token; they’ve always been in a position to fundraise and attract a lot of local support within their own communities. And I’m also one of the apparent majority who don’t think train station beautification groups deserve counters; we just want a train station. Maybe you’d choose differently.
I don’t even know what the counters are achieving, except raising the profile of some of the lesser known groups and organisations, the awareness of lesser known problems and needs. Maybe each counter has some sort of value, other than symbolic, more than just a token of recognition. Maybe it’s the bucket with the most that ‘wins’. I don’t know. I’m not really bothered actually.
But each time we leave, my mother hands me this counter as if imparting some great privilege and responsibility and I do my civic duty and drop it in an appropriate plastic container. I don’t um and ah, I read fast and make a quick decision, based on the above criteria. My mother has other ideas. She seems to think that I need supervising and guiding in my selection process, she carefully reviews my choices for me, fearing perhaps that I’m going to drop it in the ‘Drug Dealers Retirement Fund’ option or something.
I usually have dropped my token in before she finishes deciding where I should be putting it. So far, I haven’t had the option to put it in the ‘Drug Dealers Retirement Fund’ or anything of the like, for some reason. Most of them, barring train station beautification, seem pretty worthy causes one way or another. Normally she’ll approve my choice, sometimes I have to explain my logic. (I also have the tendency to support the underdog).
But it seems that I’m not even big enough to be trusted with a plastic counter.