Monday, December 11, 2023
I cut a cord today. It doesn’t happen often but once in a while I get tired of being nice and don’t feel like being helpful, so I do something I almost never do: say no.
And the thing that usually triggers it is ingratitude.
For nearly a decade I’ve been helping an organization that I used to have a relationship with. Even after I left the organization, I continued my relationships with some of the people. I thought we were, if not “friends,” at least friendly enough to grab a beer or share the name of our plumber.
For nearly a decade I’d field the occasional emails asking me for help. For nearly a decade I worked for free and did it without hesitation.
Then right around this time last year the walls began to crumble. I didn’t quite know it then, but that would be the beginning of the end of my charitable disposition. I didn’t know it then, but the ingratitude had set down its last straw.
For whatever reason, the usual email asking for my help ended up in spam and I didn’t receive it. What I did receive was the followup email a week later reprimanding me for not responding.
So I responded.
I made it clear that I had responded within hours, if not minutes, to every single email up until that point. And that I was, in fact, still donating my efforts to a cause that meant nothing outside of my relationship with the person currently reprimanding me.
I suggested, perhaps, that I might be given the benefit of the doubt. I suggested, perhaps, that some concern might be forthcoming for my well-being since I had never not responded and maybe I was dead.
When you are, if not friends, at least friendly with someone, and you have shared the name of your plumber, you could be forgiven for thinking a little honesty couldn’t hurt.
Some apologetic noises were made but not enough to make me want to share the name of my electrician.
Still, I continued to help.
The email requests grew more and more perfunctory. Then a few days ago I got my last email. It asked for my help, said the cursory “I hope you’re doing well,” and was done.
I decided that I was doing well, because I was about to never do another bit of free work for this organization again.
And thus I responded, and using the same two-sentence structure, said I was done. I made sure to punctuate it by hoping everyone was doing well.
Here’s the thing. I don’t mind helping. I like helping. I probably would have continued helping until all the technology melted and ceased to exist.
I takes me longer to spell ingratitude than it would have taken to ask how my family is. Or say Merry Christmas. Or really, anything at all that you might say to someone who has donated their time for your benefit for almost a decade.
So I’m done. Email sent, door shut. Because helping is something I have become more and more protective of, reserving it for people who merit it. Maybe that’s not the spirit of the animal, but my time on earth is short. And if Merry Christmas is a bridge too far after all the time I’ve invested in you, then… I’m busy.
Photo: we’re done here.