Monday, January 3, 2011

Feeling Charitable

For quite some time now I’ve played around with the idea of going abroad to do some charity work. What exactly it is that I could do, I’m not so sure of. I’m sure I am in possession of some skills that could prove useful.

This notion has, no doubt, been brought on by the barrage of ads on TV especially over the Christmastime. And the charity muggers on the streets. I’m not against charity, definitely not, but there are ways of doing it that don’t prove offensive and often counterproductive to the cause. I know there’s a psychology behind it, get the people when they’re shopping for presents for other people and then remind them of those who are less fortunate. I do not want to be hassled on the streets or outside shops by sometimes unnecessarily aggressive fundraisers. I’m glad so many of them nowadays wear a high-visibility vest. Makes avoidance manoeuvres that much easier to perform without looking too obvious.
I’m not a complete scrooge; I do give to charity, every year. But I’d like to choose the charities I give money to myself. Charities I feel are relevant to me or causes I feel strongly about. What I don’t need is an overly chirpy and cheerful person interrupting my precision-planned shopping day by harassing me for my bank account details. If someone approached you in the same way vie email they’d swiftly end up in your “spam” folder. At least they are doing their bit for charity and I do appreciate it is thankless work (not least because of people like me), but seriously, there must be a better way.

The socialist in me fully supports the notion of those people in the high income bracket to be subjected to either a tax which is directly distributed to charities, or given the option of donating X amount of money to their chosen charity to be exempt from aforementioned tax. But that sort of takes the notion if charity out of the equation, doesn’t it? The whole idea is that as a collective humanity we should feel the need to help our own who have fallen on hard times. And not just our own kind, but the animals and other organic matter as well. Because we have apparently put ourselves in charge of this spherical celestial object and therefore need to bear the responsibility of making sure we don’t muck it up too much during our occupation.

In my mind’s eye I have this image of how working for a charity abroad might be a fantastic, eye-opening experience that would change my outlook on life and everything else. I know this is very much a romanticised image of people wearing khaki shorts and tank tops, drinking water out of canteens helping to save the world and gathering around a campfire in the evenings to sing songs and swap stories. I know, I know there is more than a dash of the hippy in me. The rational side of my brain knows that you would be going into a war-torn, disaster-struck country where the last thing the people need is some western idealist with rose-tinted specs dragging along a guitar and serious delusions of how music can save the world. You’ve lost your home, your family and everything you hold dear, you’re living in a tent with no water, no food and no idea where your loved ones are. You don’t need someone telling you how it is good to simplify your life while giving you a couple of bars of Kumbayah while they’re at it.

Perhaps my charitable donations should remain of the monetary kind for the time being. Until at least such a time when I’ve mastered Kumbayah on a guitar.

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