Charity begins in the street, apparently.

Nothing quite beats being stopped in the street by strangers with clipboards. Especially when you’re running late for work.

Ah, the good old days of charity donation boxes outside of your local post office. Well, I say the good old days but that’s excluding class divisions, crippling unemployment, a government built on bureaucracy, and the terrible decision you made when you got a perm that one time. Dreadful. Walking by the post office, or the local charity shop, or whatnot, you’d see the charity statuette stood there and think; “I’ve got a few pounds I could spare, the spastic’s could probably use it more then me” (ah, the good old days!).

So you gave and you felt good for it. You had ‘done your good deed for the day’ and all was right, except for the horrors of the Falklands War and the troubles in Northern Ireland. You felt by making the conscious decision to donate money to those less fortunate you were doing a little bit of good in the world, even if that was a world that was being heavily crippled by the AIDS epidemic. But nonetheless you toddled off home feeling proud.

Jump forward a few decades and suddenly charity means a whole different thing. Nowadays you can’t step off of a bus in a city centre without hourds of students in different coloured vests running at you like they’ve just come straight from a five a side tournament. One by one they approach, skipping over, commenting on how nice your clothes are as you pass by hurriedly, or, and this is my personal favourite, slowly approaching while waving and grinning, like a psychopath who’s just decided that they’d like the serve you up with some fava beans.

In my younger days I would stop and listen to them explain how without my help the whole world would implode, killing everyone within, destroying everything we’ve ever known, and how, if that happened a farmer in Brazil wouldn’t be able to afford a goat. I would stand there sometimes for up to (no word of a lie) 45 minutes before I would somehow escape, getting out of signing up for a protest in Kent somewhere.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not heartless, I sympathise with the poor farmer in Brazil, I truly do hope that he got his goat. I hope the protest in Kent was a benefit and I hope it achieved some good. But what I don’t wish for is to be guilt tripped into donating money to a cause while I’m going about my daily business. As a matter of fact I hate it. It’s intrusive, even more so then being inundated with charity junk mail. And the people who are representing these charities can be nothing short of rude.

Let me give you a real life example. I was walking through Leeds city centre when I was approached by a man that wanted me to adopt a puppy. Not to actually adopt a puppy, which would be a good thing, but merely to donate a few pounds towards its upbringing. I said I wasn’t interested and attempted to carry on with my day when the man proceeded to stand directly in my way. He once again began trying to talk me into donating money, I once again went to walk away from the man. Only for him to turn to me as I passed and snap;

“What’s your problem man! Don’t you care?”

I turned to the shit bag and began to explain that yes, I do care for animals, they should be treated and raised correctly. Also, that I care for a lot of other, more important matters. What the man didn’t seem to grasp was, just as it was in ‘the good old days’, there was a hell of a lot of contemporary issues to worry about. The economy, war, social injustice, poverty, the risk of virus’s or disease, all of that stuff. All of it was more important then ‘adopting’ a puppy. But what angered me more then that, and what angers me still, is this approach to charity. Being guilt tripped into giving money to a charity is NOT charity. It is only what it is. If you feel like you have to give money to a cause then it isn’t an act of charity, not in principle.

So to summarise; I don’t really miss the ‘good old days’. They were fucking awful. And those statuettes outside of shops were a bad idea too, if dogs weren’t urinating on them then they were being vandalised or stolen. But the modern approach is severely flawed also, it’s intrusive and designed to target the shy and elderly members of society, which is conniving to say the least.

So take my approach to charity workers in the street. If you feel like you want to donate to a particular charity then go for it, give what you can afford. If you want to ‘adopt’ a puppy then great, give what you can. Equally, if you see somebody stood in near a supermarket doorway with a charity bucket then I would urge you to donate some money, every penny does help. If there’s a charity that is particularly dear to you then do what you can to help them, especially if they rely on donations alone. But if you don’t want to donate, don’t. Most of us can’t afford to support every charity going, and that’s fine. But don’t be guilt tripped into pretending to care. It isn’t fair on you, and you won’t feel good for it.