| by Romer Cherubim
( December 7, 2013, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Western countries have a keen interest in giving to charity. To obtain maximum exposure for their philanthropy, they opt for the telethon - a televisual extravaganza, lasting several hours, during which celebrities appear and make pleas to the public to give generously to the Telethon Appeal. After watching such entreaties and harrowing images of people deserving help, the audience at home digs deep into its pockets and millions are raised to benefit the underprivileged.
The West, of course, has lots of money. However, time is in lesser supply. People are busy with their careers and may not have time to help their fellow man. More than this though, many do not have the opportunity to be of assistance to others in their work. The easiest thing to do therefore is to make a generous donation to charity and assume that by doing so, a duty has been discharged.
The truth of charity giving is somewhat different. People naturally think that the money they are giving to the charity of their choice is benefiting those they wish to help. However, they are not informed how their contributions are being distributed. In other words, there is a pecking order for the money charities have raised and the needy may not always be the first on the list. The reason for this is that charities are businesses and like any businesses, they have to generate income. They cannot simply rely on State subsidy. The salaries of charities’ employees and these companies’ overheads have to be paid. As a result of these harsh economic realities, only a proportion of a person’s contribution to a charity reaches the intended recipients of the aid.
Another interesting observation to make on charity giving is the philosophy behind it. It would appear that those encouraging such an act are tacitly of the opinion that it is acceptable to give a sum of money to an organisation and that this replaces, at least in part, a person’s duty to perform good acts and be “a brother’s keeper”. If this is the case, those of us living in such environments should be wary. We should not be lulled into a false sense of moral security. We should do what we believe to be right irrespective of outside pressures.
In our modern times, we should aspire to be of some use to Society, not in a faceless way by being perpetual donors to charity, but by being a support to those in need of it, on a one-to-one basis. It is arguable that the personal element of our dealings with one another has been lost today and we are the poorer for it.
It is hard to imagine a more uplifting feeling than saving a person’s life in a hospital operating theatre, helping a wayward pupil to achieve good grades in public examinations at school or empowering a person to have a better quality of life at a court or tribunal. All these ways of helping are, of course, linked to a person’s employment. However, they need not be.
A friendly handshake, giving directions to a stranger or being a friend to someone at a stressful time can all have a positive effect on a person’s mood and perhaps life. The important thing is that these acts cost nothing, but mean everything!