Charity... or as I call it, “being human”

We are currently bombarded left, right and centre by charities of all shapes and sizes. It’s visible on the TV, the internet, in the press and even through your door; and of course there are the chuggers and the cold callers.

How many of us have binned the pleas for “just £3 a month”? Who has “crossed to the other side” to avoid someone with a bright t-shirt and collection bucket? Who hasn’t hung up on a charity call centre? Yet conversely, there are some worthy causes we support without a second thought.

I am involved in “charity” and have been for years. My first charitable outing was at St Perran’s church, I trudged the streets with my cousin asking neighbours and friends for donations to the “White Elephant Stall”. I was rather nonplussed when we received bric-a-brac and jumble; the white elephants never came to fruition somehow, but as a seven year old I accepted that. I progressed from this to “Willing Shilling”- the Girl Guide’s version of the “Bob-a-Job”. I found myself cleaning windows, weeding and shopping all for a shilling (5pence to you) in the pursuit of guide funds. I suppose this early exposure to “charity” set the scene. Before long, my friend Catherine and I were holding a jumble sale on the street outside our houses. This was for “Save the Children Fund”-we were in their club-we had badges and a book where you gained stickers for each event you held. It was fun while it lasted and I like to think our £5 helped somebody... somewhere!

Following this I did my first sponsored walk. It was run by my cousin (yes the same one who collected bric-a-brac with me)-I think she was doing it for Duke of Edinburgh Award or some other worthy venture. We (girls from the Grammar School) walked 20 miles around Barrow and raised an amazing £1,000 (this was truly amazing in 1970) for Croft Trust. I swore then I would never do another walk for anybody! I lied.

So what is so compelling about charity and fundraising? I have thought about this for a while. I can split the population into three: 1. the doers -idiots who run, walk, swim, jump etc in the name of charity, 2. the givers-those who wouldn’t dream of performing any of the above physical activities for anyone but pay up, 3. those who “don’t do” charity- for political reasons-“governments should do it, not charity”, those who can’t and those who won’t. I fall into the first two I’m afraid-which is a double whammy. I actively raise money but I am always donating for one thing or another-usually, because the story surrounding the charitable giving is so compelling.

Group 3 are easy to understand-in fact at the end of the month when someone rattles a collection tin at me- I feel envious. Group two-the givers, it’s easy to part with a few pounds-no physical pain involved and the glow of righteousness when you cough up! Group three? Well, this lot are the nutters, the eccentrics and the obsessive’s-but don’t we love them? They try against the odds to help others with their efforts, often to their own detriment (have you ever done the Keswick to Barrow?). So what drives them? I can only speak from personal experience and observation but here goes.

Some want to say thank you, or want to raise the profile and funds for a particular cause-often because of personal loss or suffering. This starts by turning and often negative event, such as a death, illness, or disability into a positive action. It isn’t usually going to fix things-but we believe (and I’m in this category) it will help others and improve lives. This can become passionate and obsessive-but in a good way.

Some are prompted by a particular story or a generic issue or event-less personal but if there is a belief in the cause then it’s a very effective driver.

Then there are those who don’t much care what it’s for-as long as their efforts make a difference. This, I think, is what it’s all about. We all want to “put something back” or “say thank you” and change lives and outcomes. So, despite sometimes feeling there is a charity overload (Red noses and bears included), the essence of charity is the same as ever-it’s the story of the Widow’s mite; giving your last, it’s sharing and caring, its wanting to leave the world in a slightly better condition than you found it in. It’s generosity and kindness... and it’s human. Isn’t it?

Oh, and did I tell you I’m doing the K2B for the 12th time, in my 60th year... surely that’s worth a shilling or two?

My K2B Fundraising page:

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