Since I was a teenager, I have made it a point to do something for charity; something more than just drop a few coins into a bucket. Don’t worry – I’m not going to shine my halo (but if you wanted to, I’d be delighted if you’d buy a copy of The Big Book of Hope) because I think charity is only really charity if one doesn’t crow about it.
In a recent radio interview, however, I was asked why people should contribute to a charity that helps children overseas when there are so many children in Ireland who need help. Why should Irish people send money to India or Ethiopa when there are children here who could benefit from that money?
I do not deny that there are children in Ireland who need help. There are children in Ireland who will go to bed hungry tonight. There are homeless people in Ireland who need food, clothing and shelter. There are sick children here who need – and whose families need – financial assistance. There are elders who need help. There are animal sanctuaries and community projects that all need – and deserve – help.
Most of us don’t need to leave our own towns or villages to find a person or family or cause who could use a bit of assistance. So, when I ask people to support a cause that helps Indian children, I am not asking them to do so at the expense of Irish children. I am, instead, offering them the opportunity to help in a way that might appeal to them more than other opportunities to help.
The €1 you have to spend on charity will, to be blunt about it, achieve more in Kolkota than it will in Kiltimagh. It will buy a loaf of bread and an apple (in Aldi or Lidl) but feed a family of four for a day in India. Does that mean that the people in India are more deserving? No, it doesn’t. But if you believe, as I do, that we are all connected and that no matter which way you send an act of compassion, it is received and does good, then it really is up to you what you do with your spare time, your spare pennies and your spare goodwill.
Make this year – Europe’s Year of Volunteering – the year that you do something for others on a regular basis. Find a cause – here, there or anywhere – that tugs at your heart-strings and support it. If you can afford to, set up a direct debit that benefits your chosen charity. If you’re flat broke, give of your time or your talents.
Where charity begins – at home or overseas – is irrelevant. What is important is that charity begins.