Last Friday I went along to Eldon Square Shopping Centre to hear The Church High School for Girls Year 6 sing Christmas carols to help raise money for Children North East. The girls sang beautifully, their sound filling the large square in the centre of the mall.
Several volunteers dotted round the square held collection buckets for passers-by to make cash donations. We actually collected quite a lot of cash during the hour which will go to support all our work with vulnerable children, young people and parents, not just WEYES. But it was the human interactions which struck me. Some people did not see the collectors; some noticed but then ignored them, passing by either boldly or guiltily.
Many did give and in many different ways - with a smile or question about the singers or the charity, others avoiding eye contact or words. Some gave as an afterthought, almost walking by then turning back to the bucket at the last moment. There were lots of small children out with mothers or grandparents who enjoyed posting coins into the bucket watching them disappear one at a time, and sometimes asking for more.
Every one received a smile, a 'Thank you' and 'Merry Christmas' and each one went away smiling. The collectors too seemed to enjoy not just collecting money for a good cause, but all those small interactions - a smile, a few words, the delight of a small child or contented grandparents. None of that would have happened had the Church High girls not been there, and they would not have been there had it not been for Children North East.
We think that charities exist just to benefit those in need and of course that is their purpose; but giving and receiving also contribute in numerous tiny ways to the happiness of the community.