Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Charity (Word Wednesday)

This is something I have been thinking about recently. I made one of the things on my 101 things to do list, to 'donate something to charity each month'. What I didn't say is I don't want to give money. I don't mind spending money but... I am not saying I shall not give money at some point but....

So why don't I want to give money? It feels something like giving a beggar cash, not knowing if it will be spent on alcohol or drugs. There is something much more satisfying about the idea of giving or doing something. These things have added value.

I remember when I lived in the City, there was a girl. I never knew her or spoke to her but synchronicity took me across her path several times. The first few times I saw her, she was begging outside a bank. She was in a bad way and obviously was abusing something. These thoughts were confirmed as one time I saw her she was giggling to herself and generally on another planet. She lost weight.

One day I was walking to work. With no car, it was simpler to walk rather than go into the city then out again, even though I did have to walk through some bad areas. But then, to be fair, I lived and worked in bad areas and the places inbetween weren't much different. There was a house on a corner that was unkempt and given some of the people I saw going in and out of it, I had suspicions that it was a rather unpleasant house....

One day I saw a man and a woman arguing. The man was pulling the begging girl from the house. He looked healthy and well as did the woman he was arguing with but the begging girl was so thin she could have been a skeleton. She had no life or will and would have gone anywhere anyone wanted to take her without argument. I got the distinct impression that the man was trying to take the begging girl away from there, to help her, but the woman, probably his girlfriend was against the idea. The man was cross and determined and I walked on by.

The next time I saw the girl she was begging again. This time, however, she looked well and happy and there was hope in the eyes that had previously seemed to hold no life at all. She was with a young man who had the same look. They were young and in love. They were trying, badly to busk and they had a sign behind them saying 'leaving for London, please help with the fare'. This was the last time I saw her and the first time I gave her money.

I don't know why synchronicity took me past her as it did. How I managed to be there at several dreadful points in her life, but I was. But to give her money before I saw her being taken from that house would not have been charity. It would have been death money. She would have used it to carry on killing herself, as she undoubtably was. We never exchanged a word and I was an unseen observer of her life but yet all these years later, I still remember her well.

So charity. If I give, I want to know exactly where and how it will be used. If I can add value to it by extra effort or thought then I would much rather do that. Last month was easy - the local radio station had an appeal on for Easter Eggs to deliver to children in hospitals and hospices. This month however there has been no easy appeal.

One thing keeps coming to my mind though and that is to send an anonymous package to a member of the armed forces serving abroad. I don't agree with war but I know that we are human and I can not see any way of stopping the world from making war. Those men and women who fight do so because they believe it will help their home country and with peace keeping (or restoring) a large part, because they believe they can help.

So what is charity? According to the dictionary it is:
  • Provision of help or relief to the poor
  • Something given to help the needy
  • benevolence or generosity towards others or humanity
  • Indulgence or forebearance in judging others
  • An organisation or institution established to help the needy
So no, I don't have to agree with war, but by sending something to a member of the Armed Forces serving in difficult circumstances, it is charity on several levels. I am not judging, I am being generous, they certainly are needy and in many ways they are poor. I don't think charity should always be an easy or comfortable thing. Sending money off by direct debit feels somehow soul-less.

I found an organisation called Surprise Supplies and they suggest sending goods of a maximum value of £10 to one of two addresses for either Iraq or Afghanistan. This is such a small thing to do, really. It seems that if you do this and take the package into the Post Office, the Royal Mail will not charge postage! I shall believe that when I see it....

For more information....

1, 2 or 3.

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