The problem: How do I deal with people who stand on street corners and want me to sign their petitions? I’m guessing their organizations are worthy, but I’m trying to get to work, or home.

Low road: Avoid eye contact. Make the person feel invisible.

 

High road: I understand the temptation to avoid stopping and being swallowed up in a conversation about a cause that might not be your cause. Plus, a signature is rarely just a signature. It’s likely a path to your e-mail which is a path to endless organizational updates which is a path to pleas for money. You have no obligation to stop or sign, but neither should you see this as an opportunity to chastise the kindly petition holders, who tend to be young and idealistic about fixing our planet. Let’s do our best to keep them from becoming our crusty, skeptical, worn-down selves for at least another week. Try a multi-tasking solution. Are you capable of walking and talking at the same time? Breeze by with a smile and encouragement: “Running late here, but good for you for making a difference!” I assure you this will set you apart from most who pass by. Simple, yes, but a welcome sign of kindness.

 

Read more of Gail’s “High Road” columns at startribune.com/highroad.