Children in Need
In the years before my mother died, she began giving me money. It was money she’d saved that she didn’t want the government getting their cut after she died, so she began withdrawing it and giving it to me, untraceably, in cash. It was money that would otherwise go to waste in her lifetime, idling away in accounts earing interest, so she decided to use it before she died to see what she could get out of it.
My mother and I never got along very well. But I couldn’t deny it was an okay thing to be giving me the money, though, thankfully, I’d worked hard to get a good paying job and had my own money saved.
From the beginning I was skeptical about my mother’s gift. It was rare my mother ever gave anything without expecting a whole lot more in return. My mother started messaging me every month when she had the money to give me. It wasn’t so much she wanted to give me the money as she wanted me to come to her. I told her I’d come get it when it was convenient. I always thanked her sincerely for the gift, but I never made a big deal about it. Much to her chagrin, I never made out like she was a philanthropist of the order of Warren Buffet or Bill and Malinda Gates.
When she said she had a couple of months worth of money waiting for me, I’d reiterated I’d come by when it was convenient. I thanked her again but said the money should be okay since it doesn’t evaporate. I began feeling like I was a dog being given a treat and instead of begging or rolling over, I was expected to rush over to her place at her beck and call for the morsel she needed me to crave.
I imagined my mom calling me, whistling and snapping her fingers, “Here, boy. Come and get the money,” and I was supposed to prance over there like Milo grateful for a biscuit.
Finally, I went over and I noticed all the money wasn’t there. I thanked her for what she gave me.
More and more months began to pass between me going to my mother to fetch the money.
Finally, one day she asked, “Don’t you wonder about where all the money is?”
“No,” I said. “It’s your money to do with as you please.”
She said, “Well, since you can’t be bothered to come and get it, every month you pass on it I give it to charity.”
I was far from shocked that the day had finally come, so I was prepared.
“Good,” I said. “I genuinely hope it makes you happy. If it’s a better use of your money than giving it to me, then by all means do it. I hold no grudges or disappointments.”
I could tell she was disappointed that I wasn’t more upset.
“As I’ve always said, if you want to take all your savings and go blow it in Vegas, then by all means do so. You earned it. You deserve to let it make you happy however it will make you happy.”
“I’ve wanted you to have it,” she said. “That’s been the plan.”
“But now I don’t deserve it.”
She liked that answer.
Then I smiled.
“By you giving the money to charity instead of me, it’s not that different than me giving it to charity myself, since all I need to do is show up here once a month to collect.”
She didn’t like that answer at all.
“By me passing on it, it’s essentially me giving the money to charity.”
“No,” she said. “It’s me giving it to charity.”
“But it would be mine if I’d show up to accept it.”
She refused to answer.
“By me not collecting the money, it ultimately makes its way to charity. I’ve been sacrificing it for the sake of charity without even knowing it.”
She remained silent.
“I know you think I’m an ungrateful and selfish son,” I said. “But think of all the good all that money going to charity does. Money I sacrifice so you can give it to charity. Not only does it help the needy, but I bet your charity makes you feel good too.”
“You don’t sacrifice anything,” she said. “You never have. You never will.”
I said, “I hope the money’s going to children in need. I’ve always had a soft spot of needy children.”
I said it knowing she was and had always been the biggest child with the greatest need.