Saturday, August 24

Ruby Grimshaw on the ups and down of charity

- July 17, 2012

Many years ago I stood for a few miserable hours in the foyer of a supermarket in Portslade shaking a tin for the RSPCA – we were allowed to make a rattle in those days. It was very dispiriting which is why I have not been eager to do it again. However, since becoming a volunteer for the Mid Sussex Branch of the Riding For The Disabled Association I have twice been encouraged to take up the bucket again.

The first one was at a garden centre and surprisingly it was fun, mainly because it was one of those rare days in June when it did not rain and even the sun came out a couple of times.

I found that the public, when confronted by a charity bucket, can be divided into either: 1) those who smile vaguely, muttering that they will give you something on the way out, 2) those who accelerate their pace and keep their eyes fixed on a distant point deep inside the shop and 3) the few who actually ask questions about the charity and usually give something.

The second time was at an evening meeting at Brighton Racecourse and was more of a challenge. It was cold and drizzly and not well attended so there was a lot of time to assess the horses in the parade ring and watch the races. My friend and I both thought we were good judges of horses and made our forecasts before each race. We would have been very poor if we had actually put money on our assessments. One horse we considered lame in a hind leg went on to win his race.

I was advised to go to the exit gate after the second to last race, as people would be getting cold and starting to leave. The sight of a bedraggled old biddy, miserably clutching her bucket did seem to improve takings. As one young man swerved in my direction, withdrawing a wad of bank notes, I put on my best smile. He transferred the wad to his other hand and withdrew a handful of coins from his front pocket and trickled them into my bucket. I tried not to sound too sarcastic with my thanks, but I wanted to kick him on the shins.

I have learnt from my experience that acknowledgement is everything. So whether it is the Big Issue man, the beggar or the charity worker, I shall now smile and say, “hello,” even if I don’t buy or give.

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