(with apologies to the weekly feature in the Guardian of the same name)
What I'm Really Thinking... The Charity Volunteer
I'm standing in a busy public space, wearing the tabard with the charity's name emblazoned across it, and I'm holding a collection bucket for people the drop coins into.
I'm not saying anything nor approaching people, just standing still and smiling, holding the bucket. There are 3 other volunteers at the train station with me - one near the barriers, one near a display about the charity, and another near the other main thoroughfare to me. We're not close enough to speak to each other, so we're each on our own trying to look friendly and approachable while people walk past.
I wish I could say to you all "It's ok. You can smile and I won't take is as a commitment to give money. I'm in the middle of you all, and I am going to look at you and smile. I'm a friendly person, smiling comes naturally. You don't have to avert your eyes so obviously. Making eye contact, smiling back, acknowledging someone... it doesn't mean you are obliged to make a donation. "
Instead I thank those who drop coins in, and wish people a lovely bank holiday weekend.
After about 40 minutes I'm a bit bored so I amuse myself by finding something positive about each person walking towards me. Great haircut; nice jacket; shared book taste from the WH Smith purchase; warm smile as they greet their friends. It makes it easier to keep being friendly.
But again, the carefully averted gaze, the swerve to avoid passing near the collection bucket. I'm feeling like a pariah. I've had about 20 donations (mostly small change) but a good 300 people carefully *not* looking in my direction as they walk straight past me.
I am not so desperate for your pocket change that I'm going guilt trip you into it with big puppy dog eyes. That 20p the girl dropped in the bucket just now? That's nice of her, but not the sort of contribution to badger and harangue people over.
If you'd like to drop some money in the bucket, ACE. That's kind of you. It's a really worthwhile cause. But if you don't, that's OK too. No one is judging you. So there's no need to look sharply away like you've been caught. I know everyone has her own priorities, preferred causes, money worries, busy lives or just self-absorption. Relax. Catching my eye is and smiling back is just that - a smile.
And have a great weekend.