‘Instead of trying to change the world, just change yourself, then the world can change with you’
I woke up feeling a bit tired this morning. Yesterday I spent nearly five hours standing still, which I find challenging, as I am always much better off if I move regularly. Needless to say it was for a good cause, so I’m not complaining, quite the contrary, I can literally ‘feel’ the good.
Bermuda has a lot of charities. This I believe is because their social services are not like other first world countries, and are severely lacking. I expect that’s because of their tax system, which has very low tax for companies and employees and very high tax on anything you purchase. When in strife a government assistance can be drawn, but this is a very small amount of money which would not even cover rent for most people. It’s also based on a means test and we joke that if you own a decent pair of shoes, you probably won’t qualify. All jokes aside, it’s a very serious matter for those people living with challenging disabilities, medical conditions, out of work or on their own raising children. The infrastructure just doesn’t cut it, so people are dependent on three factors to get them through: their family; their church; and their charity. Generations of families live together to support each other, but some people don’t even have the means to make a meal in their one room apartments. Bermuda has a church on nearly every corner, and approximately nine hundred charities. If all of these charities had a collection day, which here is called ‘tag day’, seventeen charities would be competing for your generous donation every week, with buckets, standing on corners, outside banks, supermarkets and pharmacy’s, elbowing each other for their share. Like everywhere else in the world, the global financial squeeze has meant finding nine hundred dollars to be able give each charity just one dollar, has become impossible for the average person. We are already hit up for ‘Tips’ which is one or two dollars to people packing your bag with groceries, or up to seventeen percent on top of your bill at dinner. The grocery packers volunteer in shifts at the supermarkets and are often aged retired people, people with learning disabilities, or school children saving for school trips. In most cases these tips are vital to supplement their income for survival.
So yesterday I spent most of my day standing rattling a bucket, saying good morning or good afternoon to everyone that walked by, for one of Bermuda’s charities. I was astounded at the generosity of most people, often the ones I would have expected couldn’t actually afford to give. I was also dismayed just like I have been in every other country I’ve given my valuable time to collect for, when I see the people who obviously could afford to give, walk by. My reasonable brain tells me that they may have given in a trust, a grant, sponsorship, or perhaps online. But I know in reality as they carry their single shot latte, with their AirPods in their ears, wearing designer clothes, they probably have the wealth they enjoy because they don’t give it away. Now this might sound judgmental, but it’s the behaviour that accompanies it. Walking wider to the opposite side of the footpath, so they don’t have to pass by closely. Looking in every other direction, so I can’t possibly meet their eye. Apparently getting a cell phone call right at the walking past moment and strangely it’s a short call because they can hang up two paces later. You know the kind of thing I mean. I don’t blame them, there are so many charities, I can’t give to all of them either. I just give some of them my time instead.
There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to make sure the collection day runs smoothly. People have to be contacted first to secure their voluntary hours, then again as a courtesy reminder before the day. Buckets are prepared and sealed, and delivered to appropriate collection spots, which have already been contacted to seek permission. You can’t just rock up to the local supermarket and collect for a charity without permission. Each charity has their allocated day, so they don’t double up, and don’t quote me on this but I think some must work together and split the proceeds between several charities. There’s certainly not seventeen charities collecting here every week, but one or two maybe. The person in charge of all this organizing should get a medal, they seamlessly run the day, check on their volunteers, keep everyone safe, run around with replacement buckets when needed, and are on board to count every penny later when the collect is over.
I really enjoy collecting. Over the years I have door knocked, taken part in annual pub crawls hitting everyone up for their change, emptied collection boxes, assisted at flash charity dinners and presentations, and of course stood for long hours clinging to the bucket. One year a charity gave us teeshirts with paw prints on them, in not so well designed places for women. A cheeky bloke asked if he could ‘pat my puppies’. Don’t worry I made him put fifty dollars in the bucket before I said ‘no’! Another time a roughly dressed bloke set up just along the street from me, apparently begging. He wasn’t doing too well, but then he got a few dollars. I was thinking seriously of running him off, after all he was taking my donations! Before I could, he came up to me and stuffed the money in the bucket, and said ‘there you go love, we got em twice’! Fantastic. Once I got asked by a chap if he could ‘buy me a drink?’ I replied I was fine, but that was very kind. Oh, he wanted to take me out for a drink! Er no, I was quite busy. He came back a second time offering to bring me a drink, so I explained that I had my water bottle with me, but he could make a donation to the charity, and held up the bucket. He didn’t have any money, so I guess he thought I could use the funds in the bucket, hmmm. He was back again, and I was thinking oh no, now what do I do? He put money in the bucket, I have no idea how he got it, and I had to stifle a laugh when he said ‘that was hard earned’. Nice.
I like the stories I get. People tell me all about someone they might know who had to use the charity, or how much good it did them to be helped by the charity, or how they know someone who has worked for, volunteered or given money to the charity. A lady yesterday gave me a long description of the many different ways her grandmother had been helped by the charity, and was keen to chat to me for a while. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I was collecting for a different charity. Better we keep that to ourselves, after all the money was already in the bucket!
More soon – Sally
P.S. Don’t forget to check out George’s page and leave a note to let me know what you think of the new look