A trip through the ‘Begging Drawer’

We are at the year’s midpoint, so it’s time for me to empty the “Begging Drawer” once again.
This special drawer is reserved for a single purpose: It’s where I put solicitations as I receive them. My usual time of giving is year’s end, but that doesn’t stop the year-round flow of begging letters. And each one also offers a gift. Maybe a note pad, maybe a bookmark or two, but most often a sheet of personalized name-and-address labels. The first two, I pull out and keep on hand for potential future use.
As for the third, I can remember a time when I actually paid to have personalized name-and-address labels printed! Now, I have this inundation of freebies. I guess I’m supposed to feel guilty or thankful enough to send another contribution each time one arrives, but I don’t. However, I do save the labels, in a large bag near the basket that holds my all-purpose and personalized stationery and an assortment of cards for all occasions. I write lots of letters and notes, but my basket and bag both bulge all the time. And the Begging Drawer only closes because I go through its contents quarterly to weed out all duplicates.
For the most part, this system works for me. But, I’m confounded by the membership cards that accompany many of these letters. I didn’t think I’d joined anything by making a single year-end contribution, which I will do again at the end of this calendar year. I didn’t know that the membership I didn’t know I had is expiring now, or will expire soon, and I am supposed to renew it immediately. Which I do not, and will not.
Let me explain: I try to be a generous giver. I support many causes —for animals, for fighting diseases, for helping sick children, for research of various kinds, for educational institutions and organizations to which I feel connected. In our Jewish community, most renewals of giving — be they for memberships or annual fundraising — are requested as our own New Year approaches, so those I take care of on that schedule. And, I give thanks that many — but not all — of these groups do not keep reminding me all year long that it’s time to give again.
My “problem,” if that’s what it is, is that I grew up in a home of Great Depression-era parents. Even today, I cannot bear to throw away anything that might somehow, ever, become useful in the future. I end up with a collection: thin flannel blankets, cardboard “coasters” for drink glasses, enough bookmarks for more books than anyone could possibly be reading at the same time, and — most of all — the name-and-address labels. I keep them so I have choices. I can always find something with a completely appropriate design to identify my envelope personally when I hand-write letters and notes.
Don’t misunderstand. I love email for its immediacy, and because I can type much faster than I can handwrite. But there is something old-fashionedly wonderful about sending something that recipients will hold in their hands, and maybe even keep, if they’re so inclined. Emails are elusive, ephemeral. Envelopes with name-and-address labels carry at least an illusion of personal attention and permanence.
So now, my goal — and I think I may actually reach it before it’s my time to exit this world — is to amass enough of those stickers to paper a small room. The only drawback would be that this might give me a problem when the time comes that I’m ready to sell my home. So maybe I should just keep stuffing those name-and-address labels into that already bulging bag, and having the fun of picking out something truly personalized for each one who will receive an envelope from me.
As for now, however, it’s time for me to get on with the task at hand. The Begging Drawer awaits, and here I come!

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