By Frances Miles
Homeward bound on a Wednesday evening I headed out of my local train station aiming for the tram stop straight ahead. In between me and the exit were a couple of ‘chuggers’ – or ‘charity muggers’ – so called because of the enthusiastic way they try to engage in conversation and sign you up to a very worthy cause. Different to the costume-wearing volunteers who stand optimistically shaking a tin on street corners, these guys are seriously bold, salesy and persistent.
Back to me and the exit out of the station that I was planning; just swerve to the right, slide past the old lady in front who will get caught, leaving me a straight path through the middle and onto my tram for home.
Except something went awry, and I was caught by one of the young enthusiasts. “Excuse me; I would love to talk with you about how you can help relieve poverty for children in South Sudan.” “It’s OK”, I snapped, as I continued my fast pace, the tram now pulling into the stop just ahead, “I have a charity account with Stewardship. I actually work for the organisation, so I know all about the importance of regular charitable giving and I myself support quite a few charities using the payroll giving facility.”
Phew. Just keep on moving as you talk, your response will impress them enough to leave you alone to get on with your evening.
“Stewardship? I’ve not heard of that one before. Please tell me more about it as I often get people ask me if they can they use their charity accounts, and I would love to give them a more informed answer.” Woo, this guy is good.
I watched as the tram doors opened and people piled in. If only I had swerved left…
“Yes”, I replied with a smile, “we reclaim £10 million per year in gift aid, we only charge a small percentage towards our admin costs, and we support thousands of different charities.” Emboldened, I declared to my attentive listener that I was a Christian, and was able to regularly support my church as well as other causes both in the UK and overseas. He seemed relatively impressed, but not as much as I had hoped.
The tram doors shut.
Off it went.
Argh, its 7:15pm; I’m hungry and tired, and this guy is just too enthusiastic. Please just let me go.
“…But we need people like you, kind people, to regularly support this charity, so that aid can get to those in need much quicker than some other charities are able to do so.” I agreed with him, but declared that I had already committed most of my giving, but I will think about it, as I am indeed moved and disturbed by the plight of so many children in need.
I thanked the young man for the chat, but I really did have to go, promising to seriously consider supporting the charity, and finally, made my exit.
A tram appeared within a minute; so that wasn’t so bad, after all, was it?
But as I made my way home I felt uncomfortable and ashamed. I had boasted about my giving; even revealing how much I donate each month – I have never done that before – what on earth was I doing?! Had I been trying to prove that I was probably the most generous person that guy had spoken to that day, and so instead he should be stopping those who had managed to slip past and get home much quicker than me?
Later that evening, with my feet up in my comfortable lounge, coffee in hand, watching news of the unfolding famine in eastern Africa, my sense of shame resurfaced; shame for my superior attitude, thinking that I had generosity all sown up, but at the same time focussing only on my needs and comfort.
Father, forgive me.
Forgive me when I think I’ve done enough, when all I am actually doing is merely scratching the surface of generosity. There is so much more I can do, so much more I can give!
Oh, and thank you for that earnest young man who pricked my conscience, and shook the cloak of self-righteousness off my shoulders.
Therefore as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people (Galatians 6:10).
Frances Miles is Head of Giving Services at Stewardship, a charity transforming generosity by making giving easy, inspiring greater generosity and strengthening Christian causes.