Monday, 3 September 2007

the Braderie's lesson in humility

It's always a good thing when it rains the Monday after the braderie. It helps to wash away the stench of urine left in every nook and cranny of every street in the city.

This year, the braderie was a lesson in humility for me. As I mentioned, I was running to raise money for the Ligue contre le cancer. A journalist friend wrote an article about me and my collection à l'américain for the local newspaper so I thought, hey, Saturday morning before the race, I'll stroll down to where the action is and collect some donations in my little cardboard box. At first, I was too scared to ask people for donations but then I just took the dive. The first people gave me 90 cents. Ok, it's a good start!

For the next 45 minutes, you would've though I was asking people to cut off their right hand and put it in my box. The look people gave me, as they shook their head no, was a mix of pity, fear (that I'd steal their money), and incomprehension (or was it stupidity). And then there was the guy who mumbled something to his girlfriend about not giving to cancer and smoking cigarettes. Suffice to say, it was a rather humbling experience to say the least.

Somehow I managed to run faster than I did 3 years ago when I was really training. As I passed the 50 minute pacer, and then crossed the finish line just under 50 minutes, I said to myself - and everyone around me - "how the f*ck did I do that?". I guess it confirms the theory that having a baby increases your endurance. I haven't run that quickly since I trained for a marathon out of depression.

As I made my way home, I came across a stand for an association that supports young cancer patients. They saw my t-shirt and asked where the Ligue's stand was. I said I was going solo. And they invited me over where a nice young woman gave me a glass of water and said, "oh, so you must be Rebecca." She asked if I wanted to join their Running4Life team for future races. So, finding a team makes up for the disgust I felt after my unfruitful donation collection...

The lesson learned here is that making an ass out of yourself may be humbling, but getting publicity for it makes it all work out in the end.

To be honest, I was disgusted by the attitude I saw. But this is the French way and can I really expect people to do it my way? It makes me wonder what all these social benefits the French have (good health care, pension, State subsidies, etc) will become in the near future. And what will it take for attitudes to change? Will it be too late?

4 comments:

Elisabeth said...

Nice post. You know, there's assholes everywhere (even in Lille!!!). I have lived long enough to know. But the flip side of this sad reality is that there are many very nice, generous, caring folks everywhere as well.

Congrats on the run! I especially liked the line: "I guess it confirms the theory that having a baby increases your endurance." Hell, having a kid does force you to have energy and endurance!

Sarah said...

Congratulations on your successes! How cool that the French paper published an article on your efforts, too.

purejuice said...

this is pretty interesting. do the french not give to any charity? is there research on this? could you write some more about why they're pitying, fearful, non-comprehending? i thought caritas was something good catholics are required to practice.
is its lack related to the banlieue racism and all the head scarf and le pen stuff?

Reb said...

The French don't need to make private donations because charities rely on State funding. So people aren't used to being solicited in the way that I did it which is why they looked at me with so much pity, etc.

That said, someone stopped me in the street yesteday and asked me if I'd made money. He'd obviously seen the article in the newspaper. I said not much and he said it was a good effort I'd made. But didn't make a donation either...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...