Taylor: The milk of human kindness goes sour

Email or envelope pleas from charities go unopened.

It’s confession time: “Forgive me, Father, for I have lost patience with all those bloodsuckers who believe that the season of peace and goodwill entitles them to exploit the naïve and gullible…”

Is loss of patience a sin? So it would seem. The Catholic On-Line Guide to Confession lists 16 questions one should consider before confessing. The sixth asks: “Was I impatient, angry, envious, proud, jealous, revengeful…?”

Yes, I was, and I am, impatient. Even angry. Especially with people who treat the milk of human kindness as something to suck dry.

I use the Delete button to get rid of spam e-mail without reading it. That’s easy.

It’s harder to ignore e-mails purportedly from people I know. A long-time correspondent wrote that she had been robbed in Turkey. Her passport and airline ticket were safe in the hotel vault, but the hotel wouldn’t release them until she paid her bill. Could I send some money?

Another came from a former editing colleague, needing to pay bail in Spain.

In both cases, the spammers included enough personal information to sound convincing. Yet both proved utterly fraudulent.

Appeals by regular mail also increase towards the year end. I used to extend to all charities the courtesy of reading what they had sent me. I don’t bother doing that anymore. With a few exceptions, envelopes go into the recycle bin unopened.

Don’t get me wrong. I still donate – quite generously, my accountant assures me every April – to my own choices of worthy causes. But I’m suffering from compassion fatigue.

I reserve my lowest level of tolerance for unsolicited telephone calls. I can’t ignore them. They interrupt meals and conversations.

Whenever I hear a recording, I hang up. But it feels rude to hang up on a real person. Even if he wants to warn me about a problem with my Microsoft Windows program.

I’ve tried asking them to take me off their lists. It doesn’t work.

I’ve tried arguing. If they really know all about my computer, I insist, they can tell me my computer’s Internet Protocol (IP) number. They can’t. But that doesn’t deter them either.

When they ask, “And how are you today?” I’ve tried telling them. In exhaustive detail. Same result.

Some colleagues shared their own ways of discouraging unwanted calls.

“Does your mother approve of what you’re doing?” one person asks.

“I advise them that this call is being recorded for law enforcement purposes,” suggests another.

“I ask politely if I can put them on hold for a minute,” offered a third. “Then I put the phone down and ignore it.”

One correspondent suggested keeping a police whistle handy, to blow into the phone. “A vuvuzela would work equally well,” he added. (A vuvuzela, in case you’ve forgotten, is a plastic horn about two feet long that emits an eardrum-shattering blast of sound.)

Clearly, these “solutions” go beyond mere impatience to vengeful damage.

While I’m not convinced that loss of patience is a sin, despite the Catholic Guide to Confession, I have a feeling that a lust to punish, coupled with a loss of compassion, may be.

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