There have been a spate of fundraisers both online and on TV recently, with celebrities making appearances to ask non-famous Americans like you to donate to some cause related to relief from the impact of COVID-19 — food banks, medical supplies, etc.
Every time I hear about one of these events, I wonder how much the celebrities are donating. I mean, besides their time and talent, did they write a nice, big check? After all, each of them likely has more money than the average viewer (you know we have a huge unemployment problem, right?).
Then I remember a story my wife told me from her youth.
Her father, Burt, was one of the most sociable people I’ve ever known. Always happy to see you, always ready with a wealth of jokes, always generous. While he had a lot of meetings related to his business (commercial real estate), and would happily negotiate the terms of a deal with you one-on-one, Burt wasn’t much for having things decided by committee. As he often said, the bigger the group, the slower the process.
That’s why he let his wife handle most of the meetings at school. But when Martha was in fourth or fifth grade, her mother dragged her father to a gathering at which a bunch of parents would hash out the details of a carnival they were planning on the school grounds. The meeting went on and on, at one point breaking down into smaller groups — one to decide what kind of games they should have, another to figure out a color scheme; yet another to decide what food each parent would bring; and on and on.
Growing increasingly impatient with this bureaucracy, particularly at the end of a long work day, Burt stood up, got everyone’s attention and asked a simple question: “How much money do you think you’ll raise with this carnival?” The chairwoman of the event answered, “I think we might get as much as $400,” which was not an insubstantial sum in the mid-1960s.
As several of the other parents nodded their heads, Burt looked around the room and said, “Okay. By my count, there are about 40 people here. How about if we each just chip in $10 right now and go home?”
The other parents scoffed at this idea and went back to planning the carnival. Just as today’s celebrities are doing.