Aluminum tabs and armchair charity


Nobody in history has ever exchanged any number of aluminum can tabs for anything of value. Urban legend tells us they can be exchanged for wheelchairs or cancer treatment, but it’s mysteriously hard to find someone who has actually made that exchange.

It’s hard because it has never happened. Nobody cares about can tabs.

But it’s hard to get people to believe that that’s true. No, they insist, their church has been collecting tabs for as long as they can remember. They know a guy who knows a guy who now has a floating wheelchair that shoots fireworks because a group who cared collected 10,000 can tabs.

All we have to do is care hard enough and then the world will be better, they say. How dare you suggest that this is a waste of time. Don’t you know I mean well?

It hurts to be told that good intentions were pointless. It’s too easy to pat ourselves on the back for remembering to take a tiny part of our garbage and put it aside for those in need. It feels good and absolves us of doing something that makes an actual difference.

Don’t fall for it. Buy a meal for a family in need. Go help to build some affordable housing. Start collecting pocket change from your coworkers so you can buy an actual, no foolin’ wheelchair for someone who needs it. Just help.