Pudsey Palaver! (and other charity-related gripes)

10 Sep 07

Charity begins at home. And by that, I don’t mean one should not care about things that are happening outside of one’s direct sphere of influence. Charity is and should be a private affair. Except that it’s not. Is it me or is charity and its various public visages much more in-yer-face than it used to be? Maybe it’s me. Maybe, at 35, and now officially able to call myself a Grumpy Old Man (a fact which I’m still not sure whether to celebrate or lament), I am now just more intolerant of such things than I used to be. Or maybe – just maybe – I have a point.

As I write this, I have just seen Pudsey for the first time this year. For those who don’t know (and unless you live outside the UK and/or don’t own a TV, you really have no excuse for not knowing), Pudsey is the “cute,” yellow-furred, eye-patched teddy bear who is the mascot for the yearly event known as BBC Children in Need – which is, for those who don’t know (ditto above), one of those big national tin-shaking charity-a-thons, where people do lots of really-fun-stuff to raise lots of money for children-based charities. All very laudable and that, but it is one of those times of the year when I would very happily live in a cave in Tibet, with a week’s supply of food and drink, a few books and my Playstation 2 – and, of course, a TV on which to play my PS2, but no aerial, so I don’t have to suffer the endless stream of well-meaning celebrities, pseudo-celebrities and would-be-celebrities who have come out of the woodwork and decided to make us all feel really guilty about how little we are doing for The Children.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t believe we should be doing more for all the suffering, disadvantaged and abused people of the world. Anyone who can contribute a little money/time/effort to help those less well-off than themselves should most definitely do so. But… do we have to be so goddamned noisy about it?! I’m on the fence about whether or not the ends justify the means, but what I resent, amidst all the undoubtedly good work and well-meaning intentions, is the underlying pervasive GUILT. I contribute to charity – I contribute money when I can, I frequently clear out all my surplus stuff, much of which will go in a large plastic bag, which I donate to a charity shop of my choosing. But because I don’t do fun-runs, visibly throw money in buckets and wear silly hats for the TV cameras, why am I made to feel so tremendously guilty?

Maybe I’m just being paranoid.

Maybe when I’m veritably leapt at by a beaming, clipboard-thrusting youth with “funky” hair, and I politely say “no thanks,” I am not met with a look of you-miserable-selfish-old-child-hating-git.

Or maybe – just maybe – I have a point…

…??

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