This week the Knights of Columbus are doing their annual “Tootsie Roll Drive” to benefit local mental health support services, including the St. Louis Center and Special Olympics. We hand out Tootsie Rolls in exchange for small donations.
In one sense, we could have picked a better weekend. It was cold and blustery, spitting little raindrops intermittently against pavement and eyeglasses and turning our hands to red, chapped icesicles. On the other hand, the sight of us hunched against the cold seemed to make people dig more deeply as they tossed change into our buckets.
Not everyone, of course … Some averted their eyes as they dashed past. But most had a kindly expression as they handed over their dollars. One store owner even brought me a cup of tea and invited me to stand in the entranceway, out of the cold.
I was proud of Craig, who actually chased people with shopping carts to their cars for a contribution. He came back with a full can. I waved and held the door open for restaurant patrons that didn’t seem to see me standing there … and returned with the bottom of my bucket about an inch deep.
I couldn’t help but think about the young men and women served by the organizations we were collecting for. How often do they feel invisible, as though people are embarrassed at the sight of them? Do they ever feel like charity cases, rather than valuable human beings deserving a little support?
When was the last time I gave one of them a cup of tea … just because I was glad they were there?