Thursday, November 12, 2015

#NaBloPoMo Day 12 - Does charity really help?

NaBloPoMo November 2015


I was sitting at Marine Drive with a friend when a street kid came begging. I'll commend his cheek for saying that he wanted money to have some ice cream. Now this was new compared to the usual demand for money or food that comes form such kids. I was a little wary. The heart does melt when a sickly, unkempt little thing comes around like this - especially when you just spent for a dinner for two at Pizza By the Bay without batting an eye lid. Doesn't the kid at least deserve an ice cream! I usually chat up with such kids just to figure out what's up. Just my way to find justification in indulging a random kid. My friend was flabbergasted that I was even holding a conversation with him instead of dismissing him right away. What would you do if you were in my position?

Last evening, we stopped by the road and my spouse went into the shop to get some crackers - a first since we got married 8 years ago. I was sitting in the car when 2 kids accosted me and asked for money to have dal-chawal (rice and lentils). They even knew what one plate cost and said if they buy a full plate, both of them could have dinner. In this case, my guilt kicked in again because we were planning to give away food to street kids this Diwali but never got down to doing it. As usual, I began my drill with them to understand where do they live and what will they do with the money. And I think we also generally give in to the guilt of squandering money while these kids may not have a proper meal on a festival. What would you do here in my place?

I gave money - I think a 100 bucks each time! (yeah! I am that mushy)

What each one did with the money is his Karma. But I still like to believe that I did a good deed and my intentions were honest.

I also bought a whole bunch of stuff for Kashmir flood relief - in hindsight, I think I overdid it - to do my bit for people in need. Only to be told by a friend in the army that they did not need relief materials - a lot of which was taken away by people in charge before it reached the actual beneficiaries - but they'd appreciate if people would volunteer to help them rescue people.

I have often wondered whether our charity matters. Who deserves it? What do they do with the money/materials people get? Where does this distrust come from? What is the kind of charity I should be doing to make a real difference? While it's great to feel bad about people living on footpaths and guilty about being blessed while they are not. I think I am just conditioned with stories where people take old clothes and sell them to go back to begging in their tattered clothes. Or kids being sent to beg where all the money is taken by parents and the kid is really not the beneficiary.

Apart from my brush with street kids and other sporadic attempts at charity, the first time I really started giving away stuff was to this charity organisation called Goonj. It has proven credentials and does a great job in this area. I still gather clothes that don't fit or I won't wear and send it to their collection centres. I like the fact that they have their needs specifically marked out. Since they are serious in what they do - they need clothes in wearable condition and not as if you meant to throw them away. Humanising things you give away is touching.

I am still always confused about who is the right candidate for charity. We all find people hanging outside eateries/restaurants making you feel guilty the moment you get out. Some of them have kids in tow and I really don't know what to do.

What do you think about giving away things? Do you believe in charity for random kids, like I do? Is there an annual system you follow and ensure you have done your bit towards the less privileged? Would you like to do more for such people? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Drop your comments here or hit me on Twitter at @Suman_Kher. Waiting to hear from you!

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