Charity, Snot, and Keeping our noses clean: why keeping out of trouble isn’t quite good enough

I aim to keep all the noses in this house clean. I mean this both literally and figuratively. I try to ensure this family keeps both snot free, and out of serious trouble – neither is an easy task for a parent of three young kids.

But I have been wondering lately, is this good enough? Can I say I am a good person, just because I no longer do things that are particularly bad? These wonderings remind me of a seminar I once attended where the question was posed:

Is it really worse to kill someone than to let them die?

By being passive in life threatening, dangerous or just plain awkward situations are we actually contributing to the absence of good, and thus letting evil prevail? For example:

  • it’s wrong to assault your spouse, but not as wrong to not intervene if you see a domestic violence incident; and
  • it’s wrong to kill via euthanasia, but it’s not unheard of for medics to stop giving people food and water in their last days, as a passive way to bring on death; and finally
  • it’s wrong to rob a child of his food, but not so wrong to not give to a charity that could use the money to prevent a child starving.

It is the charity point that I want to think about in this post. Because, to be honest, I’ve been a bit lax on the charity thing for most of my life. 

To enlighten you further on the workings of my selfish mind, let me take you on a tour of my protracted thought process on my approach to charity.


I spent my days in formal education desperate to change the world. Then, I walked into a job in the Financial Services industry. I still fancied myself as a saver of the world, so I continued to look around for world-saving jobs. A friend of mine worked for a charity. I was staggered, as only a young idealist could be, that charities actually competed with each other for our attention, rather than all working together in some sort of zen-calm charity circle. In retrospect, this approach seems entirely fine, but at the time I felt utterly flabbergasted that even lovely charity people were actually manipulators of my affections.

I’d wander around town on my lunch break. Strapped for cash, but still eager to make a difference, I signed a couple of forms waved in my face by so called Chuggers. I’d donate a few pounds a month to a charity, only to find out years later that barely a few pence made it to the people in actual need.

While at work, sponsorship forms landed on my desk thick and fast. At first (and oddly at the time when I had the least money) I was eager to help out. In the end I became inundated with sponsorship requests from self obsessed morons who, as far I could see, were just trying to find a cheap way to climb mount Kilimanjaro.

In my free time, I’d enjoy watching TV now and again. But once a year, my favourite TV programmes would be hijacked by charitable organisations making me watch things like this:

It made me feel quite ill!

The cherry on my ‘excuses for doing very little’ cake was finding out that Public schools are charities. What???


Is this the attitude I want my kids to have? Well, not really. Perhaps in a subconscious attempt to improve the image of Brand Mum that I project to my children, I have started to find my more charitable side.

I’ve started to help out with projects  in the area I live in, giving time rather than money. I can’t help everyone, but that shouldn’t stop me getting involved with something. I tend to volunteer for things that I have a vested interest in, such as education – while I once ridiculed the Kilimanjaro climbers for doing the very same thing, I think now that they were right to fulfil their dreams and help others.  

The internet makes donating money, and sharing the various appeals for cash and time, so easy. Actually, while I am here with access to anyone in the world who is on the internet, I can take this opportunity to promote causes I come across, like  Team Honk, a group of bloggers raising money for Comic Relief. If you like what you see, then you can sponsor Team Honk here. That was so easy to do!

Oh, and I perhaps ought to mention that I just donated to Children In Need, because I feel bad about saying awful things about that awful  charitable Youtube clip above.

So, it’s a start. I’ve got a few more ideas up my sleeve that I am to put into action, rather than just think about. In the meantime I’m off to find more tissues, and to lead those kids by the nose down a more charitable path than the one that their mother has trodden.

What’s your approach to charity? Let me know!


6 thoughts on “Charity, Snot, and Keeping our noses clean: why keeping out of trouble isn’t quite good enough

  1. Clare Flourish says:

    You’re the philosopher…

    Of course killing someone is worse than letting someone die. Killing, you are responsible. The Trolley problem is only interesting because we want to save others. Our tribal species wants to benefit the tribe.

    My church gives money, but has recently become involved in actual good work: many of us volunteer at the homelessness charity and food bank, and we use part of our premises to house a previously homeless family.

    First you are responsible for yourself and your family, but then you try to do Good. Hooray! Then you find that doing good is not as easy or uncomplicated as you hoped. And you still try.


    • Abby Boid says:

      Hi Clare
      I first came across this ‘problem’ in a seminar that was at a 9am on a Friday morning, after a Thursday night where a local nightclub ran a 50pence a shot promo. To say I rolled my eyes when it was put to us was an understatement. However, I still like it as a prompt to get into murkier areas such as euthanasia. Well, murkier to me – I guess many people are really clear on where they stand.
      And you are very right on the doing good thing. I’ve become much more involved in my local community since a job that involved a lot of commuting ended. Because I am around, situations crop up where you get involved, sort it out, and hey presto – I am not such a bad person after all.
      Thanks for your comment. Got to dash now – got a sinking boat, some dogs, and a few people – I need to work out who to rescue.


  2. Abby Boid says:

    I read this when I was tired. I thought you wrote that you wanted to sausage the guilt. Guilt filled sausages – now there’s a possible title for a post!
    PS – shareholders in need – the 21st century charity – get shopping.


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