Posted by: Postordinandy | May 13, 2010

51 pence per mile

On a chilly evening this week I was among a small group of people collecting for Christian Aid Week.

An hour of so into trudging up one side of a fairly long street – a mixture of houses, flats and bedsits – I was getting cold, and wondering quite what I was doing. By this time I’d rung or knocked on the door of over 50 houses and gathered the princely sum of 51 of your new pence – the loose change one gentleman had to hand.

Some of this was due to people not being in – or not answering the door anyway; but a good number of people simply said that they either already donate to charity (which is great), or that they didn’t (which is less encouraging).

Things did get a little better – after 90 or so minutes I had collected maybe just under £20 – but I did find myself thinking about why people do, or don’t, support charity. Below are a few of my musings:

  1. Charity begins at home:Times is hard, everyone and his dog know this. People are feeling the pinch personally, and can’t avoid talk of global recession and national budget deficit cuts. Instinctively, we humans look after our own first, and help those ‘others’ out of anything we have left from what we need. The trouble with this thinking is that we rarely find ourselves thinking that we have everything we need. Talk to the person who ‘needs’ to move to a larger house, a better car, THAT pair of shoes…No one is exempt from this thinking – and I’m certainly not going to pretend that I’m immune either.
  2. ‘Got any loose change?’:
    1. People are increasingly suspicious of people coming to the door asking for money. We’ve all had those leaflets from charities asking for donations – cash, clothing, computer parts, whatever – and the temptation to put them straight into the recycling bin is enormous. Even with some ‘official’ identification on me, I found some people who were unwilling to donate in this way (see also point 3 below).
    2. I’ve personally found that people genuinely have less cash on them. This may come as a shock to some, but increasingly I find myself only having plastic on me. I personally try to avoid using credit cards if I can at all help it, but the debit card is lighter than coins, and less likely to fall through any holes in my trouser pockets. An ever-increasing number of shops are happy to accept card payments for small amounts of currency, and as a result people find less and less use for ‘real’ money. Thankfully, there are any number of ways that people can make donations electronically or via the post – and I’m living in faith that at least some of those who took another envelope and said that they would pay this way will actually get around to it.
  3. ‘Who?’:
    1. Although I think of Christian Aid as a fairly high profile and respected charity, I did meet more people than I expected who had not heard of them. Thankfully, Christian Aid themselves provide us will good resources to help people find out more, but not everyone is able or willing to listen to something that may sound suspiciously like a sales pitch on their doorstep.
    2. Also, there is the ever-present elephant in the room (or envelope): the word ‘Christian’ in Christian Aid. Now, I know that Christian Aid help people of all and no faith, and celebrate that fact – but there is no doubt in my mind that some people baulk at the religious and faith overtones. I spoke to a couple of people who were quite adamant that they would not give anything because ‘I’m not religious’, although others who were clearly of non-Christian faith made donations.
  4. ‘What for?’:
    1. It might just be me, but it feels like the profile for Christian Aid Week was a little lower this year than it has been previously. A couple of people I spoke to asked if there was a particular focus for the campaign this year, and (again) although we had plenty of information to share, it was cold and people didn’t want a sales pitch.
    2. Possibly linked to the above, one man simply said that he wasn’t aware of any disasters going on in the world. Another (echoing my first point above) told me that there were enough people in need ‘here’ and that we should be thinking of them first.

So what can or should we do about all of this?

Those of us who are Christians must remember that it is ultimately God who provides, as a popular prayer of offering simply puts it:

“Everything in heaven and earth comes from you, Lord. We give you only what is yours”.

This should challenge us to reassess not only what we consider we ‘need’, but help us to be more appreciative of what we actually have – which in turn should help us to be more prepared to give to those in need not simply from our leftovers, but more deeply, generously and with greater personal ‘cost.

If you’re still not sure, have a look at this to see where you are on the ‘global rich list’.

Perhaps we should reinvestigate the value of having ‘real money’ to hand – if only so it might be easier to help anyone we meet who is in need. Of course, we need to be as wise as serpents here, and often a meal or hot drink is worth more than some loose change.

Those of us who are Christians must remember our God’s charge to look after those in need. In the Old Testament, there are repeated references to protect the vulnerable and make a stand for justice, (see for example)

We need not be shy of the source of any good work we feel compelled to offer, but again need to be wise about how we identify ourselves. I meet quite a few people who have such a distorted view of Christians and Christianity, (or at least distorted from the faith that I recognise and hold) – often people who would embrace many of the values of ‘true’ Christianity, if not the theological premise of it. A good witness to the love and generosity of Christ can sometimes mean humbly admitting that we have made mistakes, and enthusiastically demonstrating that Christians believe that all people are the object of the outrageous love of God.

Lastly, perhaps we need to reconsider how we raise the profile of organisations like Christian Aid. On that note, pop over to here to read up on the good work they are doing – you can make a donation on the site too!

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Responses

  1. Andy – good post mate!


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