The Blog

Charity Begins at Home...

If 'charity begins at home' means that you should take care of family, close friends and neighbours, then yes, shouldn't we all be doing that anyway? We all have the potential to be a bit nicer to each other, right? Unfortunately, the saying also often goes hand-in-hand with the mentality of 'looking after your own' (I'm imagining this being said in a Phil Mitchell voice, btw) which can translate to 'couldn't give a flying fig about anyone else'.

I like to think I'm pretty charitable, in fact, I have pipe dreams of setting up some sort of charitable Tech/Media initiative (what it is yet exactly I don't know but it's not Nobel Peace Prize worthy that's for sure). In the meantime - in the real world - I pretend I'm all virtuous when the reality couldn't be further from the truth, and it turns out that writing this highlights that actually: I'm pretty selfish on the charitable front.

Yes I regularly donate (and purchase) in charity shops, send the (odd) text to campaigns that pull at my heart-strings but it's not like I have monthly direct debits, volunteer to build a school, climb mountains and I certainly haven't run any marathons (although maybe that's for the best as a 15 minute jog in the park brings me out in hives).

The closest thing I once did for a good cause was to set up a charity gig night for the British Heart Foundation (BHF), when a very close relative had three cardiac arrests. Someone saved their life with CPR and they miraculously came back to life after 24 hours, but it shook me to the core. Naturally, I wanted to do something for the BHF who work tirelessly to save people's lives.

Was the gig appropriate? Not really, the whole ethos of the BHF is about healthy lifestyle choices and here I was, in a pub, pretty inebriated slurring across the mic about who had won the raffle prizes with a pub full of equally swaying pissed patrons and I thought I was a bloomin' saint.

I'd go so far to say that when I see friends' 'Just Giving' pages I tend to think, 'ah, I'll get round to doing that' but usually don't and carry on regardless in my own little bubble. Yet hypocritically, I wonder how I can make the 'World a better place'.

Is it just me though? How many people took part in the Ice Bucket Challenge or No Make-Up Selfie but actually failed to a) donate and b) know what they were actually about?

Social Media has a unique double-edged sword in that it both dehumanises ourselves from each other yet at the same time has the amazing power of bringing people together.

Half of us think that just by sharing or retweeting that we're 'doing our bit', e.g. celebrities holding a bit of paper with the latest trending hashtag. The words 'bandwagon' and 'self-promotion' springs to mind...

Yet, when something big trends and has real people power behind it to make something change, it gives us all a warm glow that yes, we are all actually trying to make a difference. So when you see the likes of Dawn Porter using her high profile status to not only set up but also run and execute the #HelpCalais appeal and make a real difference in real life, it is both humbling and inspiring.

Sadly, it has taken one heart-wrenching photo of a little boy washed up on a beach to get people thinking that enough is enough with the current refugee crisis dominating the headlines. So after being invited to a local group offering to donate to the refugee crisis in Calais, asking for tents and other necessary items, I decided that yes, I need to also contribute somehow.

Admittedly (and awfully), my first thought was 'but what if we need that tent?' Who am I kidding? The closest I've been to camping and sleeping low is at festivals and jumping around to James and The Prodigy at 4am with flowers in my hair.

Most of us hoard stuff that we never need and we have a strange desire to hold on to it with our dear little lives. But whatever our circumstances, we're all lucky and blessed in one way or another - we're not leaving a war-torn country, stranded in a boat in Arctic-like dark water conditions and literally fighting for our last breath to survive.

So I'm pledging to make a conscious effort to become more charitable and step outside of my comfort zone. And I'm going to start this 'at home' because my theory is this: if you do something nice for someone, it makes you feel good and if you make someone else feel good then they're more likely to do something for someone else and thus the cycle carries on. Also, by doing something local it feels a bit more real and you're more likely to see the benefits straight away and want to carry on being charitable.

Today's deed (which seems tedious as I write) was to stick a note through an elderly neighbour's door who has broken a leg. Before you judge, I would have offered do a food shop or run some errands but I'm heavily pregnant, due any day and waddling around like a puffed out porky penguin.

I'm starting at the 'grassroots' (while this light-bulb philanthropic tech dream idea somehow comes to fruition) and will be collating what I can for the local Calais group. And while I'm not about to do a Jolie-Pitt and adopt an orphan, nor pretend I'm taking the moral high ground, I will start giving a bit more and donate to things like the #HelpCalais fund and other global issues.

So let's re-coin the phrase (the clue is in the title): Charity 'Begins' at Home... but shouldn't end there...