The myth of gift cards

Christmas 2011 the shelter asked gift cards to be donated to the clients. There was a wish tree with angels and the angels had a number corresponding to a specific client. Visitors to “The Keep” would take these angels and return gift cards, reassured the person whose number was on the angel would get the gift card. However, it was not permitted to hand these cards directly to the clients, they had to be turned in to the executive director. “We are trying to keep it fair for everyone and will hand out the cards on the 23rd” was the official explanation.

Now the executive director went and bought $5 cards, handed those and a few of the donated cards to the clients and kept many $20, $25, $50 and even $100 cards in his office, not inventoried, “for later use”, gave some to vendors and was contemplating to give some to his children when they came to the shelter “to do some good work”.

These gift cards were designated for specific people, and not to supplement the shelter’s budget or be given to vendors.


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  1. #1 by lowerarchy on September 3, 2012 - 3:39 pm

    Nice post – may I ask what a ‘helter’ is?

    • #2 by hardplaces on September 3, 2012 - 4:04 pm

      I put the letter “s” back from where it escaped, thanks for catching it.

      • #3 by lowerarchy on September 3, 2012 - 4:06 pm

        And I honestly thought it was an American term 🙂

      • #4 by hardplaces on September 3, 2012 - 4:41 pm

        Thanks for the smile, don’t have that many these days.

      • #5 by lowerarchy on September 3, 2012 - 4:54 pm

        If we stop smiling then we’re really in the shit 😉

      • #6 by hardplaces on September 3, 2012 - 5:13 pm

        I know what you mean, it just seems the older I get the harder it is to squeeze joy out of a day.

      • #7 by lowerarchy on September 3, 2012 - 5:22 pm

        Oh – I think I’m the opposite – more cynical and sarcastic by the hour. Would you say that’s because of the world without or within? I agree old age is shit physically, although it’s obviously worse for some than others.
        I’ve been diagnosed with rare form of arthritis – like rheumatoid arthritis but weirder ) It’s called palindromic arthritis which is ironic for a writer. It’s like having someone mangle a voodoo doll of me at random time intervals, then the pain vanishes after a couple of days. It can affect any synovial joint and there’s plenty all over the body. You’ve got to,laugh, although at times it sounds more like screams and groans…

      • #8 by hardplaces on September 4, 2012 - 2:31 pm

        When I was younger the combination of two words could excite me, make me delirious with joy, like, “flower-power” or “love-stricken” but I heard, I think all the words in every combination possible and so it is hard to find anything that is new and exciting, it seems everything repeats itself and I can expect what comes next. To find joy or even happiness seems to have become a chore. Not that I am unhappy, I guess I just miss that new, omg feeling I had when I was younger. You only buy your first car once, after that the feeling becomes different. You know what I mean?

      • #9 by lowerarchy on September 4, 2012 - 2:45 pm

        Yes, I understand exactly – I think it’s called ‘ennui’ – I just read your words to my partner and she largely shares your feelings. For my part I’ve always been hyper-enthusiastic – too much so for many people – so can feel each day is new. It’s lucky I do as I’ve just been diagnosed with a rare incurable condition called Palindromic Arthritis (funny name for a nasty illness) It’s like rheumatoid arthritis but comes and goes (hence name) It causes inflammation of any synovial joint and flares up and goes away in about 2 days. At first I thought someone had a voodoo doll and was doing nasty things to it 🙂
        When I look at folk around where I live I see lots of people are struggling to enjoy life and I think the times we are in have a lot to do with this. What is there to look forward to for most people? Work, lack of resources and problems – and things are getting worse for many.
        I find getting into new things keeps me positive – what about you – what creative things do you do? I’m on a mission to save the world – might sound silly to some, but it keeps me going.
        Keep talking – I look forward to hearing your response.
        Regards, Dave

      • #10 by hardplaces on September 5, 2012 - 12:01 am

        Wow, “ennui”, I appreciate Webster now. I don’t think that is what I am experiencing; it is more like being disillusioned and frustrated at the same time mixed with a dose of missing more innocent thoughts, the days I could look at the sky in awe and not think about the ozone layer and pollution. Everything looks so tainted and corrupted, nothing is pure, but I don’t feel defeated, I still want to make a difference.
        I envy your attitude right now, despite your diagnosis you still want to save the world. But does the world want to be saved? Are people still able to change by their own will or have we become too comfortable in our ways? Contradiction requires an effort and right now I don’t think people have the will or energy, it is just easier to look away and to agree with common consensus. Hey, for my children’s sake I hope you succeed!
        I am looking at the people around me and see how they buy into that nonsense of freedom and equality indoctrination, while all along being regulated by a few.

        Maybe it is the enormity of this project I have chosen to take on that generates these feelings. It seemed easy in the beginning, just go and spread the word, yea right, lol. And then it hit me….

      • #11 by lowerarchy on September 5, 2012 - 2:17 am

        Sadly I think you’re right – but if I believe that it’s hard to keep it up 🙂
        Perhaps I’m good at fooling myself?
        We all have ways of making sense of the predicament we find ourselves in and need positive reasons to carry on. I’m very aware of the knock-on effects of my attitudes and behaviours as I’m a demonstrative and extrovert type that easily influences others. If I sat and added the negatives I’d give in so have to make my own reality.
        What’s the alternative? 🙂
        PS How old are you?

      • #12 by hardplaces on September 5, 2012 - 4:28 pm

        Oh, I love the notion of a private reality, it’s just my version is so removed from what is really happening, the gap is irreconcilable. Now, I know that you and I are not the only ones noticing that there is something wrong with our world, so how come we keep going on with our routines like obedient little children that want to please mommy and daddy? Have we been conditioned to avoid being different or is that inherent?
        How do you keep your positive outlook?
        Since I am female it is impossible to commit to an age, but I was born in 1959.

      • #13 by lowerarchy on September 6, 2012 - 1:54 am

        I was born a year before you, but what’s 12 months between friends? Usually I make a point of not asking ladies their age, but felt you were male (not sure why now) so asked.
        All realities are to a degree private as we have only imperfect language to relate with so can only share aspects of our inner worlds. We can never really explain what it’s like to be us as we are always in a process of finding out.
        Hope that makes sense – I’m in a bit of a daze this morning due to a build-up of lack of sleep, pain and painkillers – you’d laugh if you saw how difficult it’s been to type these few words so far 🙂
        The pain from the arthritis is severe at times hence the painkillers – tramadol up to 400mg per day. I was also given NSAIDs by doc – first naproxen then diclofenac but these have made me ill so have stopped them. Consequently I haven’t slept well for months and for the last couple of weeks I’ve been getting up in the night in pain. I’m somewhat worn out by this and due to broken sleep am having crazy dreams which adds another level of surrealism.
        Okay, am starting to come to my senses now.
        Love your comments about ‘our routines like obedient little children that want to please mommy and daddy’ 🙂 I’ve been arguing this same point but most people don’t like being told this, probably because it’s too true. You are bang on with this analysis – humans are conditioned not to be different by family, school, church and government and most are waiting for the tap on the head and to be told, “You did good little X!”
        I say be iconoclastic, be silly, be different and break some rules for your personal salvation. I think “The Emperor’s New Clothes” is such a great story because it lays bare the cowardice at the heart of being human – there’s psychological research that found most people will lie about their experiences to fit in with the peer group.
        I’m positive because I’m not like that 🙂 because some of us aren’t like that…
        Folk are scared to death, they’d rather die than be different and that’s how the shitty system perpetuates.
        It’s no good hoping to change society without welcoming change within – that’s where it all starts.
        🙂 Am feeling good again now – let’s go!

      • #14 by hardplaces on September 6, 2012 - 9:17 am

        Maybe I should perpetuate this “I am male” impression, would get me definitely more credibility, just kidding.
        Funny you should say that though, I always thought I should have been a man, and no, not because I thought I was one, oh no, I am 100% female. But I always, even at a young age, instinctively knew as a male you had more options, always understood even later in life that men were pulling the strings and as a woman you had to always fight a battle and a half to be taken serious.

        Language is indeed very, very limited and even the words we do have can hold different meanings for different people, a sentence can be interpreted in several ways, a story understood in multiple ways. Maybe that’s how we stimulate each other into thinking?

        It sounds so lonely “We can never really explain what it’s like to be us as we are always in a process of finding out”, there must be more to humanity than this struggle trying to relate who we are and at the same time trying to figure out who the rest of the world is.

        Oh yeah, the little white lie we all tell to not distinguish ourselves. People will say “the truth is just gonna hurt him/her” I never understood, how can the truth hurt?

        Hope your day will be a good one and I am going to inject this voodoo doll with painkillers.

      • #15 by lowerarchy on September 6, 2012 - 9:27 am

        I’m smiling as I’m your mirror image – male but with some female sensibilities. Am just writing, so will respond fully in a little while. Don’t drop the doll…

      • #16 by hardplaces on September 6, 2012 - 10:42 am

        Looking forward to your response. Don’t worry about that doll, it sits up on a nice soft pillow….. dang how did it get down there (jk)?

      • #17 by lowerarchy on September 6, 2012 - 2:19 pm

        Hello again 🙂
        When I was young I was aware of how men treated women and couldn’t understand why males were so dismissive of females. As I got older I thought it was a generational thing and my friends would be different. But this didn’t happen as much as I expected and mostly not at all. Fir instance, even when quite young I was aware of the imbalance between terms of abuse for males and females – so there are lots of nasty words for women but not so many for men. This seemed obvious, yet when I was at college and uni it still had to be taught to most people.
        A few years ago I took a psychological test online that claimed it was 99% right in guessing if the respondent was male or female – it told me with some certainty I was a woman!
        Now I’ve published a book about women taking over the world and sorting out the man-made problems. Okay, the book’s a satire – but I really think that if men continue to manage things their way there won’y be much of a future for humans and the rest of life on this beautiful planet.
        To me this (again) seems obvious, but most men carry on as if they are blind to their sex’s behaviour.
        Back to our earlier conversation. Language is imperfect, but we also have music, art, sculpture, dance and other expressive m odes of communication to try to get across our message. I can’t complain too much about words as I have been an English teacher and now a writer 🙂
        I still thin we can only approximate our feelings and inner thoughts but as you say we can stimulate others and attempt to move forward.
        I agree wholeheartedly with your point about being personally honest if possible although there are occasions when to tell somebody something negative about them could be a self-fulfilling prophecy and further weaken their confidence. And confidence is so important.
        Joking apart, I’ve got a true story about a voodoo doll, you may or not believe. I’ve had lots of weird experiences which certainly makes for an interesting life…
        PS Careful with that needle – and what kind of painkillers did you give my doll? I’ve felt kind a nice for the last few hours…
        And you? How are you feeling today? Sorry to go on without asking. You can tell I’m feeling better or I couldn’t type so well.

  2. #18 by just Kevin here on September 3, 2012 - 7:24 pm

    Sadly, this is an example of the ED placing more value on how he looks to the community than actually helping out the people he is mandated to SERVE.
    I left the social service industry specifically because I saw too much of the same kind of thing.

    • #19 by hardplaces on September 4, 2012 - 2:45 pm

      Sadly too many good people become disillusioned with a system that is impossible to fight. But for me simply going away means to leave the people I care for behind. They are family to me and I need to do what I can to improve how they live. I may not make a difference, but I will do what I can.

      • #20 by just Kevin here on September 5, 2012 - 6:52 pm

        Don’t count yourself short on the difference you are making.
        Given your writings, I would like to think you express the same compassion and commitment in the way you express yourself to your community.
        From my years of working social service (and the last few as a recipient), I came to the understanding that the “powers to be” usually expect someone to say or do something to try and make that difference.
        What they also expect is the persons to give up because they know they neither have the resources nor the ability to “keep getting up” each time they put a roadblock in the way of fixing things.
        They know it’s just a matter of time, and they know that 99.9% of the time, people just give up (and get disillusioned).
        Keep doing what you are doing. You are doing a good – no, great thing on every level.
        The world needs more ‘quiet heroes’ like you.

      • #21 by hardplaces on September 6, 2012 - 8:38 am

        I am starting to figure out that compassion, especially when you speak out about a wrong, is often met with a negativity, ”it can’t be all that bad”, “oh well, that’s just how the world works”, “I have never seen that or heard of it”, and assorted remarks, almost like bringing in that sandwich or sending in $20 absolves people from further action.
        I already have encountered my first roadblock and my first victory! After writing a lengthy letter to the board of trustees about conditions at the shelter, apparently they don’t want to know more as I have to receive an acknowledgement yet, so it is obvious they don’t want to communicate which is sad, but I also heard they ordered an independent audit. It’s not much, but I feel someone is listening and yet, I have no illusions, they just want to cover their end and not help the people.

        Thank you so much for your encouraging words. To be honest I feel like a coward for not speaking out much sooner.

  3. #22 by tjmcfee on October 27, 2012 - 6:21 pm

    Like your post. Have seen simular misuse of funds/gifts in the shelter I was at. If you would like to see portions of my book Brain Sections to give me some feedback let me know. The novel has many first hand experiences of shelter living in it. My email is: My blog is

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