Today I went to a Walmart. Twice. On my first visit there was a Salvation Army bell ringer working the donation bucket at the entrance. I had my little boys with me and just like I did with my older kids at a young age I tried to explain the importance of helping people, that there’s always someone worse off.

I opened my wallet to see I only had a $20 bill. I could have sheepishly told the gentleman I’d catch him on the way out with something smaller but I was already in mid-speech with my kids and figured what the heck. I gave Cooper the twenty and he stuffed it in the bucket.

Three hours later, back at the same Walmart and at the same entrance, the Salvation Army setup was gone and replaced with a Toys for Tots campaign.

“Daddy help?” my littlest asked.

Ugh. Explaining to him that it’s good to help people is easy. Explaining that we already gave $20 at the same store on the same day for a different cause and could be feeling put upon is not as easy.

Donation Box
Mario Ragma

This time of year there’s a certain human kindness that seems to flow. But when is the outstretched hand stretching its luck and stretching human kindness too thin?

Of course, charitable causes count on us at the holidays, but it seems so does everyone else from the mailman, the garbageman, the hair stylist and on and on.

Are more people expecting donations and tips today than ever before? It would seem so. Can we get through a single transaction at almost any store these days without a cashier asking, “Would you like to support children with cancer?” How do you say no to that?

It’s not always charities. Tip cups have proliferated the United States like a blitzkrieg. This weekend I was making an online purchase and was floored when at the pay page they included a tip section to “support” their workers. Yes, it included tipping suggestions by percentage of your bill.


It’s not been a good year for a lot of people. Grocery prices and utility costs have skyrocketed and make helping others both more important and harder at the same time. Do we need to actually draw a line in the sand and establish a budget for Christmas donations and tips? Perhaps. For if we don’t our only salvation might be a cashier asking, “Would you like to support formerly generous customers today?”

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