Does charity really begin at home?

Turn on the telly or radio and you’ll here adverts for numerous charities helping people both at home and in far-flung corners of the world. Walk in to any town, city or shopping centre and you will be hard pressed to find someone asking for your money on behalf of one charity or another. They can be found positioned tactically on a busy thoroughfare or in the doorway or entrance of a large shop or store. It isn’t exactly a rare site to walk past a homeless person hoping for any spare change.

A great many of us are too quick to pretend we have a call on our mobile phone, to be suddenly engrossed in something else, or even to just plain look the other way and hurry past. And this isn’t meant as a criticism, with so many people seemingly in desperate need of our money – which, let’s face it, is stretched ever thinner at a time of rising costs. Lots of people have a charity or cause closer to their hearts than others for one reason or other, and they tend to donate exclusively to these. No problem there, I would be the first to admit I do this – I can’t afford to help all charities, so I drop my spare change to those I want to.

But how many of us mutter and mumble under our breath about being hassled by charity collectors on a busy, rainy day in town? I would wager a good number of us do, I have done. But after seeing a video doing the rounds on the World Wide Web, I will certainly think again about how I react. In the video, a man sets out to test our reactions under certain circumstances, by standing in a busy town centre in the all-too-familiar sandwich board. Take a look at what happened.

Ok, so this guy takes things to an extreme with his choice of language clearly intent on provoking a deep feeling in people who he accosts. And rather pleasingly, most people he encounters (including a police officer) reacts with disgust and indignation at his attitude and offensive sentiment. But it’s the second half of the video that certainly makes me think. Once he swaps the sandwich board and flyers for something far less offensive, and tries to drum up support for the poor, things completely flip on their head. The masses of people walking by him appear to not even notice he is there, completely ignoring him and walking on past.

The video hasn’t made me decide to donate to every charity collector I pass, I simply cannot afford to. But I will think twice before I grumble and moan under my breath about the number of collectors after my spare change on a cold, wet winter day in town. Many charities are worthy of our support, and while they may not be my charities of choice, they still do good work for those they help.