My interest in giving is long standing. During the communist totalitarian regime in Bulgaria there were begging Roma people, despite all effort to hide them and/or get them to work – I couldn’t pass a beggar without giving them the most I could afford. When I first came to Manchester UK, the main street was lined with people begging; most of them young and all desperate. Well, it was the back end of Mrs. Thatcher’s government, after all. Now they are all on the streets again.
This aside, my interest in giving can be explained, at least in part, by my double edged feeling about it. On the one hand, I believe that as a result of the withdrawal of the state from the support of the members of society who need it, charitable giving and philanthropy have become an imperative. On the other, it seems to me that much charity is like bad parenting – it doesn’t manage to break the dependency but perpetuates it.
Today, however, I was thinking that most of us apply to giving and philanthropy the same approach we apply to other areas of life – we look for the ‘big wins’, for the big break. How much do you think people need to change their life? Or for life to be a bit less cruel and uncertain.
We all know about The Giving Pledge but how many amongst us notice the small acts of giving?
Case One: a dog’s life
This picture was taken in Sofia, Bulgaria when we were there for Easter. This year has been exceptionally cold everywhere and Sofia was no exception. So John and I were walking down the street where our apartment is and in front of a bookshop we visit we saw this dog, asleep in its bed of old blankets, neatly and lovingly covered against the cold.
Eventually the dog got up, walked around and had a drink from the bowl left nearby. It was not hurt, it was not ill.
When we asked around, we heard that the dog has been living on the streets for several years now; several households, including the staff working at the bookshop, have pulled together to look after it; people feed it and keep it warm.
What is so unusual about this story? These people really can’t afford to look after the dog but they found a way to keep it! As the life of a street dog goes this one had it pretty good.
Kindness finds a way.
Case Two: the teen in the pink tutu
Today was the Junior Manchester race and youths between nine and fifteen took part. My son run it as well – despite his hay fever and bad chest.
As proud as I was with him my heart went to the youth on the picture. Can you imagine how difficult it is being thirteen-fourteen years old and running a race wearing a pink tutu? Trust me, he didn’t find it easy and I could see it on his face. In fact I have another picture of him where he is facing me and you can see embarrassment, determination and sadness mixed on his face.
I moved slightly and on his back I read:
‘I am fundraising for Christie Charity. I am running in honour of my Dad who died seven years ago from cancer.’
Then I realised that I was looking at a formidable young man. He was translating his grief into something constructive and I regretted not bringing myself to ask him how can I find his fund-raising page.
The teen in the pink tutu was an example of strength and the beauty of human spirit.
I have always given but mostly charity: a coin here and there, periodic contributions to my favourite charities. Today I decided that I’ll find a way to touch the life of at least one person through giving.
Care to join me?