Tonight’s the return of Children In Need, but it’s a tough ask this year. Everywhere you look, funding for charities is being cut; and with the cost of living increasing, fewer people can afford donations to make up the shortfall. But we all know that child poverty in Britain is a scandal, so the Children in Need campaign this year feels more important than ever.
The religions are consistent in their teaching about giving. If you’re lucky in life, it’s your duty to share your wealth with those less fortunate. God is the source of all wealth, and humans mere stewards of it for the greater good. Jewish philanthropy is famous; in Christianity the traditional aim was to tithe; and in Islam, the discipline of Zakat has muslims donating 2.5% of their wealth each year to charity, particularly during Ramadan. But when belts are tightening up and down the country, we usually subtract what we need to spend each month, and only donate if we have a bit left over. So hearing more calls for more money, for increasingly desperate causes, can just make us all feel guilty and depressed.
So it’s worth remembering that charity isn’t just about money. Many people already volunteer, and the Scottish welcome to Ukrainian refugees has been fantastic. Many charities have shops that need things to sell, so perhaps you could donate to one of them? For example, in the UK, we each own, on average, 13 pairs of shoes. 37% of the population own 2 pairs of shoes they’ve never worn. So if just 250 people in your community donated a spare pair of shoes, which sold for £4 a pair, that’s over a thousand pounds. For a development charity, that would pay for safe water for a thousand people. It would fix about 50 wells. It would buy 150 mosquito nets, or educate 50 children. Just your old shoes.
So even if this year you’re having to cut back on your charitable giving to make ends meet, and maybe even depending on charity to get by, please don’t feel bad. Just do what you can; and rejoice in the generosity of others, in what they’re able to give, on behalf of us all.
I have been delivering “Thought For The Day” pieces on BBC Radio Scotland since November 2016. By kind permission these pieces are reproduced in blog posts here on my website. To find my other pieces click here go to my Thought For The Day index page.