The Fundraiser

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It happened about a few years ago Amber had just left her house to go to have dinner with her aunt at an event her company was sponsoring. She was running a little bit late but just got out the door.  It was during this time that she had a roommate and was about to finish her fifth year at her job.  Business was starting to move forward faster, she hardly had to call and find clients anymore, they were calling her it felt good even though she still couldn’t afford to get her own house.  Amber liked how everything was going it seemed like the things she always wanted to do, she was happy.

As she locked the door, at the beginning of her trek across town she was mapping out a good way to get there.  The event was a fundraiser for a local company my aunt was managing.  She always had a hard time giving to charities for there are so many charities out there that you never know how much of it goes to pay/help clients versus what it cost to pay the salaries for employees or simply the business aspect of the charity.  For these reasons when it comes to charities she has always believed there should be no middleman.  If people helped people directly in their communities how would that change the world.  She was perpetually going off on tangents like this, especially as she was going anywhere alone, she had a lot of time to think while commuting by walking, driving or even public transportation.  When riding public transportation it gave her the ability to think of even more things because seeing all the different people and little glimpses of their lives that they show, gave her a lot to think about daily.

Her aunt was a firm believer in helping and learning about others too.  It was probably her that put these ideas into her head.  She either taught them to her or injected them intravenously without her being aware, probably through the chocolate toffee bars she made that Amber liked so much.  Either way she was looking forward to tonight.  Despite the rain the traffic was easy to maneuver around, even with the game going on downtown.  Taking the purple line they were able to wait for only 1 train to pass rather than the regular 2 trains during these heavy commute times.  Today though she sat down with her ear buds on she just thought and listened to music.  Nothing really specific, she could hardly hear it anyway with the subway being so packed.  Though she was happy there has been never a need for pushers as they do in some countries, however she thought we don’t have regular high-speed service like they do to attract several more riders.  Instead people here are just content to wait the extra few minutes for there is never a rush to a game.

Living just outside downtown where it begins to become more of a residential area, she had better access to public transport.  She never really minded the unclean stations and squeaky rails with the jolts of movement here and there while riding the subway.  She always thought it gave her city of Atlanta character, however others would say it is because of the characters that ride the subway in the city that give it its character.

A few stations down she exited the sardine tube, squeezing through people emblazoned with filial team colors as she did.  Gaining her bearings as she left the vacuum packed seal of doors she looked at her clothes and they still looked as though they were in the subway being ironed into wrinkle hood by the closeness of their bodies.  Trying to pry her crinkled up and wrinkled clothes from her body, she says to herself there goes my perfect look.

Reaching the hotel lobby where this event was being held, she immediately found a bathroom to see in a mirror how she could fix the damage that had been done.  Straightening up as best as she could, then outside she went to the meeting room turned dining room, she was late. Before she entered she went to the greeting table to obtain her name badge for the fundraiser.

“Hi! Welcome!  We are glad you could come and help the Urban Greenery Foundation where we plant trees so you can breathe.”  Said the woman sitting behind this long table filled with displayed nametags and other information.  “May I have your name please?”

“Amber Teels” answering while scanning the table for her name tag.

“Ms. Teels”  We have been waiting for you.  Amber could see her reach for something under the table, within seconds she hands her a big manila envelope.  She opens it and there is her name tag, noticing it was a different color from everyone else’s.  “I hope everything in is there, let me show you to where you will be sitting.  Lily, I will be just a bit can you please watch over the table for me?”  Her table partner just gave her a nod of the head and smiled.  While she grabs Amber by the elbow as though she was blind.

“Really this in not necessary, I can probably find it on my own.”  Amber states as she tries to be released from her grip.

“Nonsense, we can’t have the guest of honor seat herself.”

Amber’s whole body when numb and limp as this woman was escorting her in the big room.  “Guest of honor”  Amber replies in a whisper.

Turns out she was to sit on the stage with her aunt and some people she recognized from some plantings she attended.  Though she didn’t really know any of them she was always doing other things while they were working in their newly planted areas or in the offices or organizing items for the plantings.

The charity had a very simple idea and premise.  They would have work parties of a few people who would walk around a section of the city find open areas with just dirt or weeds growing and turn it into a self-sustaining greenery area.  Amber herself didn’t do much of the planting, she was in charge of getting businesses to allow them to use vacant patches that usually doubled as garbage cans or mud puddles when it rained.  The city had already given the charity cart blanche to enhance the look of the city.  Rarely would she find anyone that wouldn’t allow them to plant some sort of shrubbery.  Essentially it was a free service to have someone landscape their property.  The volunteers always put in native plants so they wouldn’t have much maintenance.  To her aunt, “Any green we plant in the city is barely even a tenth of what we tore down to live here.”  she always told people.

In the past five years, Amber thinks they have covered almost a quarter of the city.  She didn’t make much money but she did like to walk and that was why her aunt hired her.  She would take walks so often, she would just use that time to start mapping areas that needed help and asking the local businesses if they would be willing to have the Urban Green Foundation help them make the city a little more environmentally friendly and just plain pretty.  She would carry around a form, so that it would be all legal and such, but really it was very easy. People were more than willing to talk with her especially if she wasn’t asking for their money or time. Once the word got out about the organization and how good it was all Amber had to do was say the name and they would ask where do we sign.  Sometimes they would even help on the day that the charity was expected to be present.  As a result, Amber’s job was very easy.  It was the people on stage who did the harder work.  They were the ones who actually, tilled the land and planted trees.  She could understand why they were up there but not herself.  Walking towards the stage amongst these true heroes made her feel sad as she was being escorted to her seat, she didn’t belong here she thought.

Then her aunt grabbed the other arm that the woman was not holding and said, “Thank you Carla.”  Carla then went back down the steps as my aunt continued on to say, “Where have you been you are late.”

“Sorry, I am not that late, am I?”

“No, no not really we put time in the schedule for everyone to be able to get settled, they are all just getting their bread baskets and drinks now.”

“Certainly, but I have to ask Aunt Tabitha, why am I sitting way up here?”  Amber said hoping there was a mistake.

“You have helped us out a lot Amber.”

“I haven’t done anything these people are the real workers, they planted the trees.  I should go and sit at one of the tables down below.” Amber says almost pleading.

“Now don’t be silly Amber you sit right here.”

Amber looked at the place setting that her aunt had gestured towards.  To its left was the podium and in front of it on a wooden block with a shiny faux gold metal plate was her name Amber Teels.  Sitting down reluctantly in the chair that her aunt pulled out for her, she looked at the audience and the other people on stage eating their bread getting very uncomfortable.  She barely was able to break of a piece of bread to eat.

Not even ten minutes had gone by and they were already taking the plates getting ready to serve dinner.  Then my aunt stands up to give the speech for the night.  It began with the usual greetings and jokes, accomplishments made over the past year, then all of a sudden she heard her aunt say “With all the great work we have done to make our city green, I must inform you that I am no longer am able to be the leader of this organization.”  The room went real silent. “Instead, Amber Teels who has been working along side me from the beginning will be taking over.”

Amber felt her insides begin to jump like she had been on a trampoline for hours.  Just then her aunt grabs her arm and helps her stand up, the whole room begins clapping and slowly she sees some of her family emerge from the darkness of the back of the room.  Then everyone started standing up to clap for her.  Though the only thing Amber could do was sit back down and cry.  Seeing this everyone became overwhelmed by her emotions that even they started to cry.  Though her aunt helped her back out of her seat and pushed her in front of the podium before stepping aside she said, “I am sure Amber has a few words to say at this time.”  The room started to go silent again.  Though all Amber could think of was, how could they do this, especially now.  Thinking to her self, I don’t want to run a charity, I like my job.  She had to say no but how.  Then she very softly said into the podium microphone, “I am sorry, I am truly sorry.” And Amber walked out.

-Jennie Nawrocki

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