Hopping into my déjà vu time machine

Castlebar. In an otherwise familiar store I discovered a group of students who made Castle Bookstore memorable.  They were talking, not texting. They weren’t asking adults to do something for them. They were doing it for themselves – in person, not online.

While Castle Bookstore may be unique in many ways, the first thing I noticed was the familiar pattern of new books in front, school supplies in back, and a decent discount table near the door. I never really got the chance to explore beyond this surface similarity to other shops because I was intrigued by the conversation between three young women and the woman behind the counter.

The students were asking for a gift donation for their school’s local charity fundraiser. I appreciated the experienced – or at least well-rehearsed – sales pitch from the tallest of the three. The staffer listened attentively, asking some questions that gave the others an opportunity to talk. I had the feeling she knew their pitch better than they did, but was helping them to hone their presentation. She caught me looking on and gave me a quick nod and half-smile. Returning her full attention to the kids, she told them it’d be no problem at all, but they’d need to sort out the details with the store’s owner, telling them to call back later in the day or in the next morning. At first the students began explaining how they were working their soliciting around class schedules, until one interrupted to say they could probably get out of class if they had a specific appointment, which was then made. I remembered my own days of using community events and responsibilities to avoid classes – sometimes an entire afternoon of them.

I don’t know a thing about their school but I’m glad to see this method of teaching children responsibility. Experiences like this are as least as important – if not more important – than whatever’s in their textbooks. In my own youth I remember selling raffle tickets. I would stand in front of the local market harassing shoppers. The tickets were 25 cents each – or five for a single. We could keep the quarter for each book we sold – but there were also classroom contests with prizes for those selling the most books. Decisions. Decisions. Should I push single tickets and take my money now? Or should I push books of 5 tickets [“Buy four, get another chance free.”] and hope to win the bigger prize. When you’re a 10-11 year old kid these are major decisions.

I’m glad the students are learning about life. And recall my disgust when I see parents bringing assorted fundraising projects – raffle tickets, cookies, Christmas candy, etc – to their workplace. While it may raise funds for the particular organization or school, it teaches their kids that others will do things for them. It keeps their kids from learning important life lessons – the thrill of success that hopefully compensates for the feeling of rejection.

And after enjoying this wonderful student presentation I bought Joseph O’Connor’s Shadowplay. Who knows, maybe one of these students will use the skills they develop pitching charity projects to put themselves on stage.



This piece is just one of a number I’ve written about my long-term love affair with books. If you’d like to see more simply click on the “Books” category below. You can also subscribe, so that you’ll see these blogs as they’re written, as opposed to social media’s algorithms. As the saying goes, if you like my writing, tell your friends. If you don’t, tell your enemies.

6 Comments on “Hopping into my déjà vu time machine

  1. And you sold my stuff, as well—thank god!
    Today school fundraising is done thru parents rather than the way you did it back in the day because of safety concerns.

    • Guess I’m lucky enough to live where it’s common to see kids on the streets raising money for one charity or another. Usually I just drop a few coins in their bucket and move on. In this case I had a chance to listen to a sales pitch for more than pocket change. I’m not sure who benefited more – the school’s event, the store from the advertising/sponsorship, or the kids with their learning experience.

  2. Brought back memories of my fund raising days for my school orchestra. I bought stuff from the schoolkids I worked with when I worked in restaurants. They tell the kids to only approach family, close friends, and co-workers (both their own and their parents) because it isn’t safe. Even the girl scouts cannot go into neighborhoods anymore; they have booths in front of stores, and parents must be watching at all times. I worked in people’s homes, and so many have loaded shotguns propped on a wall. So many open-carry guns in public. I wouldn’t let my kids approach strangers alone either. It’s not the same since I went around selling to my whole neighborhood. The worst thing then was a grouchy neighbor who scolded.

    • I’ll agree that there’s a difference between unfamiliar neighborhoods and public places, but while times may have changed, we should remember FDR – “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” And my take on it? If we’re afraid to leave our cocoons, how can we ever fly?

      I wonder – and have been wondering about it for a while – about the role fear plays in the American psyche and lifestyle. I’ve just searched for the word “fear” on this site and found more posts than I can remember writing. Here are links to two of them that resonate with me now, while I’m thinking about the fear that seems to have replaced concern and common sense in life.

      Thanks again for your comments – and for giving me some things to think about.

      • Good point. My neighbor refuses to let his kids play outside, even in their own backyard. Yet he takes his 12 year old daughter to the range to fire AR-15’s. He carries a gun everywhere. Our town is quite dull; most violence is personal (domestic). Occasional bar fights, robberies, and wanna-be gangs get into it, but overall it’s peaceful. But, he hordes guns, has bars on his windows, keeps his kids locked up, and sometimes even refuses to answer his door when people knock. I can’t imagine living with that kind of paranoia. Our neighborhood is safe. Kids play outside and walk to school, elderly people walk at night, women walk alone. He live like we are in a war zone. And, he is the kind of person I would not send my kid to for selling anything. The paranoid type scare me more than a friendly stranger.

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