The BBC story of actor Michael Sheen’s concern for children in care in his native Wales recalled the story at the end of last year that he had made himself a ‘not for profit’ actor. He had sold his houses and given away his money because he could always earn more money.
There is a stanza of a Creedence Clearwater Revival song Proud Mary that always intrigued me:
If you come down to the river
Bet you gonna find some people who live
You don’t have to worry ’cause you have if you got no money
People on the river are happy to give
It was hard for me to imagine such people. Who is there that would go beyond charity to simply share with those who had no money?
In my reckoning people should have been more careful: there are social welfare benefits; they should work; my litany of reasons not to give was lengthy.
When I am at my most parsimonious, a moment from my daughter’s schooldays comes to mind.
One July afternoon, she was going to Bray, a seaside town in Co Wicklow with a friend. They were to meet other young people with whom they had attended a summer holiday arts course.
Climbing into the car, my daughter’s friend said, ‘So and so said she couldn’t come, she says she only has two Euro. I told her to come anyway’.
How did the girl come to have only two Euro? To have attended the arts course, she must have come from a middle class background – it was not cheap. If she had only two Euro, it would seem probable that she had been given her allowance for the week or the month and had spent it all. Her parents had obviously decided that there would be no more cash, for that week at least.
What about her parents? Maybe this situation arose every week, maybe they were doing their best to get her to be responsible in her use of money, maybe they were trying to follow best parenting practice by not reinforcing bad behaviours. There were, presumably, very good reasons why she had only two Euro.
But if my daughter had been going to meet friends and had no money left, even if I had told her time and again to be responsible, I would have still found money for her. Maybe it came from living a lifestyle where a bit of budgeting allows a bit to spare, maybe I was a very bad parent.
When our daughter arrived home that evening and said about the fairground rides on which the group had ridden, I asked about the two Euro girl. ‘Oh, we all lent her money so she could join in’.
It was a story of simple generosity. There was no expectation that the lent money would ever be repaid.
Since reading of Michael Sheen’s simple generosity last December, it has been much easier to give to people who least expect it.