I’m usually not the type of person who gets involved with organizing events or being on the board of very important causes. It’s not because I don’t care about these events and causes, but is mainly due to the fact that I leave my house only about once a week, and even then only for emergencies like when we run out of food or diapers. Otherwise I work all day long, followed by having my children at home and any free time is spent writing down and typing up life-changing articles like the one you are about to read. You see, I always had this dream that when my kids started going to “official school,” that I would be a very involved parent. I would bake things, I would glue things, I would organize events! This year my daughter started nursery in a “big school” and true to my word, I volunteered my services. My offer to bake things and glue things didn’t take, but when I got to the “organizing things” part, people got very excited. Words like “fundraising evening,” “Chinese auction,” and “donor phone calls” were thrown around. I nodded agreeably, having no idea what I was getting myself into. I was subsequently joined on the “organizing things committee” by two other lovely,involved mothers, both of whom were named Esty. I never was entirely sure which Esty I was talking to, which necessitated my repeating everything twice, just for good measure.
Then, one of the Estys flew to America, leaving me with the other one, who had a car and was to drive me around to different stores to solicit prizes for the Chinese auction. We went very well prepared. We had an important looking pamphlet, a school picture of all the girls, and the Chinese auction flyer from last year’s event. Our first stop was an electronics store. We found the owner, a guy named Benny, and accosted him on his smoking break. I launched into a speech about the school, the event, the children, and let Benny know in no uncertain terms that he really wanted to donate something, he just didn’t know it yet. Benny, who hadn’t had such great entertainment during a smoking break in a long time, was surprisingly agreeable. Perhaps a bit too agreeable. He pointed to a middle-aged woman ambling about the store. “Can I donate my wife?” he asked. I explained that while, of course, his wife looked like a veritable treasure, we were really hoping for something more along the lines of an electric kitchen device.
Thankfully, we were fortunate enough to walk out with a Braun mixer, as opposed to a human hostage. Other stores proved to be more tricky. Some store owners only spoke Hebrew. I have been living here for four years and my vast experience with the Hebrew language has left me with the advanced ability to make Israelis laugh really hard when I try to use it. Besides, terms like “Chinese auction” are not exactly concepts that come up in everyday conversation. So I acted things out, pulled my eyelids into an upwards position, and threw in all kinds of related words. Store owners gave me things just to shut me up (or possibly because they thought I was mentally unbalanced). Esty served as a translator, and even though her Hebrew doesn’t make people want to claw their eyes out the way mine does, we still got lots of weird looks. But one thing I know for sure: The two of us were forever bonded by the experience of trying to get business owners to allow us to legally walk off with their stuff. Next came the phone calls. Basically, we were instructed to reach out to a specific targeted base of people that were affiliated with the school, chosen randomly by the fact that they were extremely rich.
We decided that we would need a prepared message with which to approach the potential donors. My initial suggestion of calling and saying, “We understand that you have a lot of money, and we would like to take some of it from you” was quickly rejected in favor of something that basically said the same thing, but with lots of more appealing words stuck in. We spoke of the goodness of the cause and reminded them of their family members who benefitted from the school. This last part is what I like to think of as friendly blackmail, because, although we didn’t directly come out and say what we would do to those beloved family members if they refused to donate, the implication was definitely there. We’ll never really know if my first approach would have worked better, but I have to admit that this one worked just fine. The final stage of the auction was procuring prizes for our “scratch-off” lotto tickets. Since we guaranteed that “every ticket is a winner,” we needed to get a lot (and I mean a lot) of instant prizes. This involved going to about a million local stores and asking for smaller prizes.
Now, you might think this would be a breeze compared to asking people for really big prizes. But in this country, it seems that people would rather give you their spouse and car keys than a forty-shekel store credit. To make matters worse, I was on my own for this job, without either of the Estys to translate and lots of people were getting the wrong idea about what I was asking them for. Judging by the looks on peoples faces I definitely wasn’t using the Hebrew word for “ticket” correctly. One sympathetic woman gave me a brachah and pressed a 100-shekel bill into my palm. It all was confusing in the extreme, but hey, whatever works! I wrapped up my last day of collecting today. It was both a humbling and mortifying experience that I will forever treasure. I don’t know how much money this auction is going to raise for the school, but it better be enough to cover a really nice, all-expensepaid vacation for me and the Estys so we can emotionally recover from the experience. Despite all the insanity, I’m sure when the evening of the auction arrives and they thank us for all our hard work, we will nod humbly, pretend like it was no trouble at all, the very least we could do, etc., etc. Which is why next year, at exactly the same time, we will once again be back to gluing things and baking things, and (heaven help me), organizing events.