Monday, 9 February 2015
C for Charity
Some of my readers are wondering where I am going with this blog. I am writing about the themes around me (contrived in alphabetical order for fun!), influenced by my 20th -meets- 21st century lenses so that someone (most likely only me!) can look back on these thoughts as a historical-learning exercise.
My mother-in-law always used to say that “Charity begins at home”. I think this was in response to the frequent doorstep visits of Save the Children, Battersea Dogs Home, Greenpeace and the like. Young individuals have often invariably pressed the doorbell at dinner time, looking cold and tired but smiling despite this, asking for a direct debit pledge – only £2 a week or something like that – and promising that this needn’t start today (homage to Casablanca alarm bells sing “Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but soon and for the rest of your life”)…Anyway, she would always politely turn them away (sometimes with a biscuit) and then return to the kitchen, shaking her head and would reiterate to me that “Charity begins at Home”.
My interpretation of this was that you should help those around you first; your family, those that are closest to you. Now, I completely agree with this but given the accident of birth that gives us our family (on most occasions), it seems a bit unfair to ignore everyone else. In any case, my mother-in-law always used the word “begin” and I only really appreciated what that meant when she passed away.
I used to drive her to her dentist appointments and so it was with a heavy heart that I returned to the dentist’s clinic to inform them about my mother-in-law. While I was waiting in reception, an elderly lady was sitting down looking a little lost and confused. The dentist had called a taxi for her but it hadn’t arrived. Long story short, I felt the need to give this woman – a total stranger – a lift back to her house. Without hesitation, she accepted my offer and was soon chatting away in my car, telling me about her daughters that lived far away and how she had good neighbours who looked in on her from time to time but otherwise she just got on with life, by herself.
Safely depositing my temporary charge, I drove away, feeling quite good about what had just transpired. I rang the dentist to finish the conversation I never started and she remarked that although my mother-in-law’s absence left me feeling a little less useful, there were others that could benefit from my help.
Looking back, I reflect on my mother-in-law’s words and her example and come away with this: Charity does begin at home and it is at home where we first learn to serve with our hands and our time and not by making monthly payments. And once we’ve learned how, Charity doesn’t end there; it really has no end.
I do the direct debit thing too, it just doesn’t make me feel as good.