Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Downside of Trying to Help Others

As regular readers of this blog know, last Christmas I founded an organization that gives refurbished computers to needy families throughout the Province of British Columbia. This doesn't just happen effortlessly but rather through the hard work and dedication of a number of people. There is no exchange of money in our organization. Everyone volunteers their time completely.

Most people we deal with are quite appreciative and grateful. But sadly, not all. We do have a screening process in place that begins with this simple plea on the application page:

The focus of our organization is on helping people bridge the proverbial "digital divide". Our mission is to provide the opportunity to get a computer to those who would otherwise not be able to afford one.

Many hours of work are donated by volunteers to make available computers that are in perfect running order. Those volunteering their time and those donating the equipment are doing so on the implicit trust that the designated recipients truly can't afford to buy a computer on their own.

We encourage you to think very carefully about this before you apply. For there are truly needy people out there who do need our help.

Seems obvious, right? For you & I perhaps but if the major traits in your personality are selfishness and entitlement then you might tend to ignore such a message and apply regardless. We received an application from an older man up north. Let me share with you my response to him, which should shed some light on the problems we detected with his application:

Dear xxxxxxx,

I am currently reviewing the applications from yourself and your neighbour, who also applied for a computer. Something I do not understand is why you are applying for a computer from us. You clearly have a Shaw e-mail address and state that you already have high-speed access. Thus you already have a computer. With countless families in our province without even one computer, why is it that you feel you should have two?

Robert Werner
BC Digital Divide

I thought I was being polite and to the point. Apparently he thought otherwise. He ignored my e-mail directly and instead contacted another one of our volunteers, thinking he'd get a more compassionate ear from her. He told her that I was rude and impolite and how dare I ask him such questions. He has since written her again, threatening to "investigate us" to see if he can get our government funding pulled. I take great pleasure in him wasting countless hours of his time investigating funding that does not exist.

But what galls me is the extreme righteousness of his conviction. He now fully understands that there are numerous people waiting to receive a computer, yet it is more important for him to receive an "upgraded one" from us to replace the perfectly functioning one he has. What on earth makes such a person tick I will never understand.

No comments: