Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Charity.

This is the intersection at the Queen Victoria Building, probably the biggest and busiest in the Sydney CBD. Tourists love to take pictures of the throng crossing. The little green man doesn't stay green too long and if you're old, infirm or have stinky knees like me, it's a bit of a mad rush to get across.
I wait patiently here 3 times a week, on my way to capoeira class.

The week before last, as I stood at the kerb, an unsmiling young man started weaving in and out among the bodies. He was shaking a little white bucket, muttering as he passed by, "Some money, sir? Madam?" He was moving too fast for me to make out the name of the charity he was collecting for, or the name on the tag around his neck.

I saw him do this for 3 evenings. I didn't once see anyone drop money in his bucket. I didn't either. 

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At Christmas time, requests to be charitable can be overwhelming. I find myself looking into the distance when I see volunteers approaching with their big smiles and cheery g'days. I shake my head. I indicate with my arms that I'm in a hurry and can't stop. I say, "No thank you." with a smile, and breeze on by. Sad to admit, I don't even want to know what charity they're collecting for.


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A few days ago, I finally saw someone put money in the man's bucket. A young girl. She put in a few coins. I could hear them dropping in. She was on my right a few bodies away and as I looked over, I could see she was rummaging around in her bag, looking for more loose change. I heard her say, "I'm sorry, that's all the coins I have." 

Surprising me, the man replied, "That's okay. You've given enough."

Then he must have given her something in return. I didn't see what it was because just then, the little green man popped up.

As I walked away, I heard the young girl say, "Thank you sir." Then again, shouting out a little as she must also have started crossing the road herself, "Thank you sir!" 

There was just something about that exchange that made me feel ashamed, and I can't stop thinking about it.


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All these pictures were taken yesterday and today in the vicinity of the same intersection.

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27 comments:

Sherri said...

I find it all too easy to walk by and not drop coins into buckets, too. Maybe I think too much....I'm wondering is that real or are they taking advantage? I remember once I gave a gentleman all the dollars I had on me, and he replied, "Is that all you got? What am I supposed to do with that?!" And I remember when one of my friends saw a woman with a sign at an intersection asking for money. It was very cold and damp and the lady didn't have a jacket, so my friend went and bought her a coat and came back and gave it to her, and the lady was unhappy with the kind gesture and replied to her rudely. I struggle with generosity to those buckets after these events. I'm definitely jaded...

BTW - what is capoeira?

georgia little pea said...

SHERRI, we have a gentleman like that in our neighbourhood. He tells people off if they give him coins less than a dollar. There are bogus buckets around for sure. For some reason, I thought the young man looked suspicious. There are also some obvious druggies hanging around the bus stops here asking for money for "a ride home". My preference is to buy them food. As you say, they're not always happy with that.

Capoeira! Check out a vid in an old post here - http://littledogsonlongleashes.blogspot.com.au/2012/01/some-things-i-wish-i-could-find-on.html

Casey said...

There are so many worthy causes to give to and only so much you can give! It can be really rough sometimes.

And yes, my sissy's name is Cinderella! Momma calls her "Ella" for short sometimes. She got her name because when she was first rescued, she was in really bad condition and had lost most of her furs. Her foster momma said she just needed a fairy godmother to get her ready for the ball. :)

Reilly / Denny Cowspotdogs said...

It can be daunting at Christmas - a time of giving and yet really so many just seem to take. We have the salvation army bell ringers positioned at just about every store and I must admit the sound of that dang bell drives me crazy - but that was my thing this year - to drop $1 in the bucket every time I see one. So far I am up to $53 .....and the smile and Merry Christmas I get each time I do - makes it worth it :)

Jean said...

Good post! You raise a timely issue, and I love those last two photos.
I tend to give only to registered charitable organizations, even though some of my donation will no doubt be used for administration/overhead. But that gets me a tax receipt and also helps me avoid the fraudsters. For human organizations, I do some research to find what percent goes to admin, and I have stopped supporting some well known charities based on their spending on luxurious offices and inflated salaries.
Mostly, however, I give to animal rescues and shelters I know personally. I know how desperately they need money and how dedicated their volunteers are. And they are also registered charities whose annual financial reports are available online through our government website.

Ann Oon said...

People in my country are more giving and gives without any thought at all... then came the beggars at the food stalls... and if you sit about 30min at your table at the stalls.. you might be approached by more than 5 or more different beggars asking for a handout at some places. Then there are the "parking space guards" which collects money from you for guarding your car when you park at the parking spaces at night.. (we don't need to pay for parking at night) but these fellows magically appear when night falls.. if you give them too little coins.. they will throw it back to you. Some demand for a certain amt.. and if you wanna park at those places.. you better be paying else you'll come back to a puncture or a scratched car. Its weird.. yes.. ppl are desperate. Being too easy on the give is not a good thing either. I will usually give if the people are old or handicapped.. but like you.. going thru the same intersection 3 times a week.. you can't possibly give 3 times a week to the same bucket. Best is to just give/help an organisation or a shelter.. or soup kitchens for the homeless.

animal lover, quilt lover said...

Around here at Christmas we are always more in the mood to give this time of year. I try not to think about what charity it is....... just give a little anyway!!!
Thanks for your visit!!
Merry Christmas!!

Amy said...

Interesting - I wonder what he have her. I walked by a collection bucket just yesterday, but this has me thinking. Perhaps his message is that we should challenge our pre-conceived notions, especially at this time of year. After all, the gift is in the giving ... not controlling what the money is used to buy. Thanks for the post!

Oskar said...

We don't have people here in our neighborhood like that, but living a couple hours away from Detroit, that is a problem there. My mom person finds it very difficult to just walk past these people.

Nubbin wiggles,
Oskar

Berts Blog said...

We stopped thinking about it and just go with our heart. If our heart tells us to give what we can, then we do.

The story with the shoeless man and the NY cop was very eye opening for us. Not just the first story but all the follow ups with all the new info.

We decided not to try and guess what was happening in their lives and like we asid, just go with our hearts.

Bert

Jan said...

I have at various times been a bell ringer and collected for various charities. But to be honest, I felt as guilty trying to collect money from people as I felt by not giving money to the causes.

georgia little pea said...

REILLY/DENNY C - and Christmas is still 2 weeks away! You're a good person. We have a Salvo man in our neighbourhood too. He's been standing in uniform at the same street corner for as long as we've lived here, more than 10 years. He's an institution himself! :)

JEAN - it looks like we have the same thinking and strategy with charities and donations. Cushion and I tend heavily towards animal causes. I still remember a volunteer once asking me if I didn't like children (when I said no to buying a book supporting some children's charity, can't remember the details). I told her I preferrred supporting animal charities. The look she gave me! Made me feel very small. But surely, we all have to make choices?

We also research the charities that are in our wills every time we update them, just to make sure they're still what they say they are. Sadly, some do get admin heavy or seem to lose their way.

ANNY - I remember those beggars at the food stalls. I also remember buying meals for the ones that looked genuine. The parking attendants sound more like touts! We have a program here for the disadvantaged that I think is pretty good, better than extorting money from people who want to park their cars! It's called The Big Issue and you can read about it here - http://www.thebigissue.org.au/about-the-big-issue/about/

AMY - I think you hit the nail on the head. That was the message for me. I hope to see him again though strangely, I haven't since that exchange.

BERT - I'll have to google that story!

That's interesting, JAN! I'm sure it must be quite difficult to go up to strangers asking for money and get rebuffed.

houndstooth said...

If I have change and I'm able to give, then I drop it in the bucket, but I actually prefer to give anonymously. The truth is, I don't have a lot of extra money and I can't donate much, but what I do have is time and a voice. If I can help someone with those things, then I feel okay. We all have things to give, but it's not always monetary, and that's okay. And I think there are times when we're able to give, and times when we need to receive. Hopefully those things balance out, but you never know.

Tootsie said...

Great post, Typist. And really important issues to raise. For Mom, it is about whether we see / don't see. There is so much to do for so many... there is no way to give to all the needy. Perhaps it is an excuse, but Mom thinks if we look and acknowledge, we are also giving our attention. That's a gift, too. We acknowledge that people have hit hard times. We see them. We acknowledge that people need help for so many charities. So Mom does not always give on the street, but she tries to always say "hello" and look the person in the eye. It's not enough, of course, but she started doing it when she lived in NYC. There were simply too many street people. One major issue you raise: do we see reality and acknowledge it? I think you do. Your post shows this.
Love,
Tootsie

georgia little pea said...

Thank you TOOTSIE. I got a little sniffly reading what you said. I think what your mama does is important. Acknowledging the person, a smile, saying hello are important. It's bad enough to be down and out. Worse to be invisible as well X

Keisha said...

O hai. Me saw u from Dexter's page. {{{hug}}}

Karen said...

Charity is never as easy as dropping some coins in a bucket, but I have been known to drop a few bucks into the Salvation Army's kettles. I know, they're a religious charity, but they seem to actually help people.

I have a *job* that has me out & about a night, looking for scrap metal. The perfectly usable household goods & furniture that I seen in the trash makes me crazy. People would rather chuck stuff than take 30 minutes on a weekend and donate it to a charity. I have rescued many things from the trash that make me shake my head. Pots & pans,storage tubs, picture frames, hand tools, sporting equipment etc... I found THREE perfectly good wire dog crates in the trash that I use on a regular basis. Those crates are about $80 in the store. I haven't bought gift wrap in over 3 years because after Christmas people seem to think that it has an expiry date. My mini Christmas tree this year is a trash treasure.

Charity to humans AND the earth can start by bringing good used stuff to a Salvation Army or Goodwill. Less stuff goes to landfill and the proceeds of the sales help people in need. Okay, rant over.

sagechronicles said...

We too have many, many people standing on the corner hoping for some coins or more. I too can be suspicious, but there are many deserving and needy folks that really do need help. Food is the best option, but that's not always what they want.

georgia little pea said...

Thanks for your rant KAREN :) All of our stuff from the big cleanup went to the Salvos. I glad they were in good enough condition for them. Vinnies and Sallvos can be fussy. Years and years back, they refused to take a couch because it had a little chewed corner. We have trash and treasure swop days here. All good fun!

What Remains Now said...

I think everyone has to come up with their own "rules" on this one. My main rule is...I don't give based on emotion. If asked to give in the moment, I pass. I give myself time to think it through. That may sound heartless to some, but after examining myself over the years, I found that when I give out of emotion, it is not to help, it is to make myself feel good about how selfless and generous I am, which is neither selfless nor generous. Once when I was in Atlanta, I gave $10 to a panhandler. This particular area of Atlanta had Courtesy Police roaming around and one of them boldly came over to me and said, "You just did a bad thing. If you really want to help the homeless, there are donation boxes all over this area where you can donate to shelters that truly strive to help people. You just bought an alcoholic a drink." Needless to say, I was embarrassed and mad that the guy said that to me, but it really woke me up. It was the first time I realized that I was giving to make myself feel good and not because I cared about that particular person. Now I look for causes and people that truly touch my heart, and I try to help in a responsible way. I do drop dollars in The Salvation Army buckets. I love The Salvation Army and the buckets and bell ringers are part of the joy of Christmas for me. Let's talk about Georgia now.

Kolchak Puggle said...

Here in Vancouver we have a great many people who have a great need for some kindness (and many in need of treatment fir grave mental illness). Personally, worse than those who beg are those who no longer do. Too down to even try, they break my heart more than those still begging. We try to do many acts of kindness for these people: food, rain jackets, whatever we can. It's too sad, and even those who beg to feed a drug habit are not doing it maliciously. It's a disease. You never know what an act of kindness can do.

georgia little pea said...

LORI - I don't think you're heartless. I think you're sensible. Cushion and I are also very selective. We try to do our homework with charities before committing. I'm a fan of "teaching people how to fish" rather than "giving them fish". I'm super wary of people asking for money for a bus ride home. I don't think they're really after a ticket.

KOL'S MAMA - you're kind and you may be right but I still can't make myself give to a druggie or someone who looks able to work but doesn't. Does this make me wicked?

Kolchak Puggle said...

Not wicked at all, just from two different schools of thought! I've been blessed (I know it's an odd word to use) to have several people very close to me struggle greatly with addiction. In fact, I'm a child of addiction and watched my father fight it for years. Being personally touched by it, I know just how much of a struggle it is and that has made me keenly attuned to the plight of our homeless and addicted population. My father remembers the many acts of kindness done for him when he was at his worst and he spoke often of that changing him and wanting to turn his life around. Even when I feel angry at the sheer enormity of people in our downtown east side, I try to remember that I don't know their story or how they got there and my father telling me to be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle. I'm am doing nothing more for the people I help than I had hoped my father had when I was a little: food, shelter, warmth and the help and counselling to get better. I may get swindled from time to time, but I am OK with that. If the help reaches even a few who genuinely need and appreciate it and it sows a seed of a better tomorrow for them, it's all money well spent to me.

georgia little pea said...

KOL'S MAMA - Thank you for sharing your story. It was very generous of you.

A personal experience changes everything and of course, colours the way we think. I suspect I get my mind over heart (heartless?) attitude from my mother who worked for many years in social services and told me not to give to people begging on the street as that encouraged them to "run way" from the half way houses where they were being looked after. Freedom in the street was better than being fed and housed in a safe place? Makes you wonder how awful they must have been. Somehow.

There is a song I'm thinking of about situations like this. Unfortunately I can't remember what it's called. If I do, I will post it!

Thank you again. You know what? I don't think you're a Swarovski girl at all ;) X

LetterstoAndrew said...

I try to give when I can, mostly in the states they hang around outside the stores. But if you are aggressively shopping, it can really hit your wallet. Plus there are some charities where the money really doesn't go to the charity, but into the pockets of the people who run the charity. I'm getting so I'd prefer to write a check to the charities I support. We also have people hanging around with signs that say homeless...etc. The ones that say will work for food are the ones I'm more likely to give food to. I'm pretty jaded too, because if they are clean, with nice clothes, I will pass them by. I know, I'm a horrible human being.

chandra said...

A few years ago, I was working on a documentary film and while we were shooting we spent time at homeless shelters in a few different U.S. cities.

I was told by shelter staff that if you do want to help, the best way is to give to shelters, programs, soup kitchens - an organized effort that provides to individuals and families in need rather than to the individuals on the street. They told me this is because individuals may not use the money to help themselves (for a variety of reasons) and if they are unable to gather money themselves they will be more likely to visit the programs for help, which could lead to more substantial and longterm assistance for their needs.

-c at ddy.

georgia little pea said...

Hey MS C, that sounds just like what my mama told me.