When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed. (Maya Angelou)
Yesterday my wife and son took part in the "ice bucket challenge" in support of ALS/MND. It was a lot of fun for us all (I held the camera) and afterwards we each donated to one of the MND charities. We have no personal connection to the charity and I'm not aware of knowing anyone with the condition. Like millions of others, we took part, and donated, because of the viral nature of the campaign. Nothing wrong in that, right?
I certainly don't begrudge the attention which has been focused on this debilitating condition, nor the monies which have been raised to fund research and support those who live with it. Others have chosen to use the same "ice bucket challenge" format to raise money or focus attention on other conditions or issues. Some huge amounts of money have been pledged (even allowing for those who may have posted videos of themselves being doused and forgotten to donate).
There's surely a sense in which "a pound is a pound is a pound" (feel free to replace with your national currency) irrespective of what motivates the giving. But it's easy to get caught up in taking part in, or contributing to, such fundraising (and fun-raising) events without ever truly engaging.
On a personal level, that is largely true of the zip-line challenge I did earlier this year in aid of the homelessness charity Crisis. It was a lot of fun, I met some lovely people, and personally raised over £700. But I'm not sure how much more engaged I am in the issues facing homeless people on the streets of Newcastle, or elsewhere. Hopefully the money I raised will make a real difference for others, but how much difference did the experience make for me?
Next month I will take part in a 10 km walk to raise funds for the Alzheimer's Society, and will be supporting Fran in the NAMI walk she's doing on the other side of the Atlantic in aid of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The NAMI one is different in that I do feel genuinely and personally engaged, but so far I haven't taken the trouble to find out more than the little I already know about the impact of Alzheimer's disease on those living with it, their friends and families. I will raise some money, isn't that enough?
Something tells me it may not be.
Fran and I are on week three of a 21 day meditation course presented by Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra. Yesterday's meditation was entitled "Being of Service", with the key message "My soul expands when I help others."
Today in meditation we activate the sense of service. But instead of approaching service in the conventional sense, as a sort of obligation, we will look at it from the perspective of higher states of consciousness. In this view, service is not only a humanitarian effort, it is a path of joy and self-realization. It is an opportunity to grow in happiness, not a duty. (Deepak Chopra)
Looking at things this way, our intention in giving service (financially or otherwise) matters very much. "A pound is not necessarily a pound". True service, true giving, blesses and enriches both giver and receiver, and more deeply and meaningfully than an ice-cold soaking or a 23 second zip-line slide across the Tyne. It doesn't have to be a big thing, but it can be a heart thing.
Or, as Fran puts it:
In giving, caring, living, every little bit counts..