I was struck with a moment of stomach-tensing anxiety at the supermarket yesterday* when my young son bounded towards a couple of charity collectors. I was not, as I have been on previous occasions, bereft of cash. Nor did I wish to curb my young toddler’s commendable enthusiasm for philanthropy, although I suspect he is more motivated by the pleasures of posting money in plastic buckets and receiving stickers than any magnanimous impulse to give generously to charitable causes.
What vexed my neurotic heart as my bouncing boy dragged me towards the collectors was that I hadn’t the faintest idea what charity they represented. I could see no posters nearby, no recognisable logos or emblems that I could make out as I hurtled towards them at the astoundingly fast sprint of two-year-old who has spotted stickers ahead.
I was seized with a chilling fear as a barrage of worrying questions descended upon me. What if it was a charity I did not wish to support? I couldn’t very well go up to the ladies, check out the cause and then walk away without giving money. Were there charities that raised money for truly awful things? Could there be ‘evil’ charities? The Destroy the Rainforest Trust or the Support Battery Farming of Impoverished Orphaned Children Fund? Would it in fact be nearly as bad to donate money to a cause that was not inherently bad, but not something I feel I should give money to in comparison to the huge number of worthy causes out there? Was it wrong of me to think that there were unworthy causes? Surely there weren’t any such thing as evil charities or even slightly morally dubious charities. In fact it was pretty despicable of me to put myself up on some moral pedestal where I was the arbiter of which charities were worthy of donation and which weren’t. Even if they were the Save the Endangered but Hideously Ugly Spiders Fund, they were still doing something that made the world a better place. However unpleasant I find spiders, they fill a niche in the eco-system and their extinction could bring about more serious problems than my suffering a nasty shock every time I discover a scuttling eight-legged arthropod in the shower.
Luckily I reached the charity bucket before I had an aneurism and discovered that it was the ‘Flash of Light’ St John’s Ambulance appeal. Quite a relief. Dominic posted the cash. He was rewarded with a sticker and me with the peace of mind of knowing that had I given to a clearly good cause. Besides, I may well have need of St John’s services when my neurotic brain implodes if the Save the Spiders Fund ever decide to have a collection outside my local supermarket.
*Rather than ‘at the superday yestermarket’ as my groggy fingers just typed