We did the Moonwalk London overnight walking marathon two weeks ago raised over £1,200 for the Walk the Walk charity that gives grants to organisations that support people with breast cancer and their families. I was stunned by this figure. My original fundraising target was £300 and I thought that, with luck, I might just about raise that much. That my final total will be nearer £700 astounds me. Whether the sums given were several pounds or just a few pennies, I was overwhelmed and grateful that so many wanted to be part of the effort.
My husband was supported mainly by work colleagues and old college friends, and I think a large proportion of my support came from family or close and longstanding friends, and particularly those who have completed this gruelling challenge themselves. Some gave because they thought the challenge was extraordinary – it wasn’t – and they couldn’t see themselves doing it. I know that I shan’t be so quick to brush it off in the future as something everyone seems to do at some stage. Some gave spontaneously and with huge generosity, thinking about a loved one who had suffered from breast cancer. It was all really moving. I also received donations from people in my dog training class or at choir but most surprising were the people who know me only from chatting on Twitter who somehow felt moved to contribute and support me. For any of you reading this who made a donation, thank you so much. Your support in money and words meant so much.
I can’t help myself being interested, though, about reasons why others I know well didn’t feel they could contribute to the fund. Now, I’m not criticising or judging here: it’s not MsAnthropy; I’m just curious. TImes are hard and a lot of people have no money to spare. Indeed, I found myself having to refuse to increase one of my regular donations this year although, goodness knows, they really could do with the extra. Or there are people who have already donated to several friends for the same cause. I mean, it does get to the stage where you ask yourself: Where do I stop? Some are just not interested or have other charities to support and there are those who specifically asked me for the link to my fundraising page and then just didn’t get around to clicking on it. And we’ve all done that, right?
And some people simply might not agree with the charity in question. I find myself annoyed at being asked to donate to alleviate the suffering of people in, say, Syria. It’s their civil war. Syrians are killing and injuring other Syrians and we’re expected to pick up the pieces. But isn’t the point of charity – of love – that it transcends this blame-pointing finger? At the end of the day, these are real people, children, innocently caught up in a tragedy not of their making and it is part of humanity to try and do what we can for them.
There is another reason, though, why some people didn’t want to contribute to charities: they think that this sort of thing should all be handled by the State and paid for through taxes. This does seem to be the culture in places where high personal taxes fund a high level of public services, such as France. From each according to his ability to each according to his need was Marx’s 1875 ideal, but, to my mind, the State is never going to be able to fund everything that people need or want. Who exactly judges what need is?
In the case of Walk the Walk, for example, they are currently campaigning for Paxman scalp cooling machines, and money raised by walkers has placed over 400 in NHS hospitals. Scalp cooling machines are used to help people undergoing chemotherapy to keep their hair. It could be argued that this is not a need at all, and therefore doesn’t even appear on the list of NHS competing priorities. But imagine for a moment how you would feel without your hair, your crowning glory, an expression of how you’re feeling that day. Apparently, some people with cancer are so put off by the thought of losing their hair that they refuse chemotherapy for their cancer. This “luxury,” can help so many people but if it’s not identified as a priority, no-one will receive it unless it’s funded by charity.
Or take the case of St. Christopher’s Hospice, the world-leading palliative care centre near us in Sydenham, which has helped ease the last days of so many people with terminal illness. Founded as a charity, it initially received no help from the NHS and even today has to raise two thirds of its income through charitable donations and ventures. Or the Samaritans, who receive almost no State funding, yet perform such a vital function in trying to support peoples’ emotional health and preventing suicide. Click on the link and read for yourself: someone makes contact with the Samaritans every five seconds.
All these examples are well-known an generally receive favourable press to raise a large amount of money but I do wonder about the smaller charities run by a couple of people, that cannot hope to have the resources to put on such large, media-friendly fundraising events. Do people walk for, say bowel cancer? And what happens when, say, a charity for rehabilitation of ex-offenders runs up against St. Christopher’s Hospice in the monthly Waitrose Community Matters selection? I always try to post my little green tokens into the slot for the charity that has collected the least. Nothing against St. Christopher’s but lots of people are always willing to donate to it and perhaps lesser-known, more controversial charities miss out because of that.
Just three cases where the State cannot hope to meet the real need out there from tax, that all rely on the generosity and goodwill of the normal people in straightened times. We can all do our bit in time, if we have it, or money, if we have that. To my mind social responsibility, social participation, empathy is a sign of a healthy society.
If you want to donate to my Moonwalk fundraising, there is still time to do so by clicking on the link to my Walk the Walk fundraising page over there on the right hand site of this page. Will the total amount tip over £700? We shall see!