How to be an Object of Pity
Hint: Grow a gray beard and present folding-money
Twice now young women have bought me coffee at the coffee shop on the campus where I teach. Just standing in line like everyone else—minding my own business—I pull out my $2 (cash-money) and the young woman in line behind me says, “Just put it on my card.”
I resist: “No! I wouldn’t hear of it,” I say. “You can’t. You must look after yourself with that—or at least spend it on your friends.”
I went on in that vein, until the cashier reached past my $2 (cash-money) for the woman’s card.
“She’s not going to spend it all anyway,” said the cashier, repeating what the woman said.
So. Free coffee. Thanks profusely offered.
Yesterday: same thing. I pull out my $2 (cash-money) and the young woman behind me says, “Just put it on my card.”
I resisted. This time with less velocity. Free coffee. Thanks profusely offered.
I’ve puzzled over this phenomenon. What I know for certain is that the students here are some of the kindest people you’d ever hope to meet. And earnest. Looking around I also see that I have landed from the planet “old guy.” Though I know even recent grads feel that way when revisiting their alma mater. Still, it’s been a long time since I was an undergrad.
But I think it’s the folding money that triggers the pity. What kind of a person uses cash-money on campus? Clearly someone in need and, frankly a bit out-of-touch. We all use cards.
You must not be from around here.
“Let me help you.”
The other day a student reflected on her community-building work in our social media marketing class:
“It’s also important to create a presence that encourages interaction,” she said.
I can’t get her comment out of my mind, partly because of getting two free coffees and partly because of the riddle of how to write in a slightly-unfinished, slightly-needy way. Like how Columbo conducted investigations: you pity the unkempt, needy fellow until you realize he is canny like a fox.
I’ve long puzzled over the magnetism of a dumb sketch. Stepping up to the white board and drawing something badly as a way of explaining an idea is a sure-fire way to invite others in. And they step up—not to correct, just to collaborate. Because it’s sorta fun to draw badly and without the pressure to create art. And it can be fun to think together. And, like presenting folding-money in debit card economy, you clearly need help.
What are you willing to leave unfinished to draw others in?
Image credit: Kirk Livingston, The-Toast.Net