The act of giving makes a big difference
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I’ve been reflecting this week on how we are starting to emerge from the pandemic, how we are coming out from the darkness and blinking in the light of togetherness, habitualness, and normality.
Just as we see a difference in attitudes in shops with some people still firmly masked and sanitising their hands religiously, whereas others have thrown caution to the wind, so this is carried across into chapels and churches. For the most part, there seems to be a healthy caution with a combination of mask wearing and rediscovered embraces. From a minister’s point of view, it is wonderful to be able to offer that reassurance and comfort to the bereaved. It has gone against the grain to be pastoral at a distance.
And the other welcome return is the donations box at the end of the funeral service. Benefactions to charities have plummeted following the impact of the pandemic. A survey of 100 senior executives of large charities in the UK found that 45% sold assets such as property in a bid to boost their income. The irony is that the demand for the services of many charities has shot up while, at the same time, there has been a significant fall in their incomes. Drastic steps have had to be taken just for them just to survive and to be able to offer the same vital services.
One huge dent in raising money is the fact that fundraisers big and small have been postponed or cancelled for a prolonged period of time; another is that, for many people, giving to charity has had to take a back seat next to the struggle to stay afloat.
Another, more understated, dent is the absence of a retiring collection when people leave the chapel has been one more unwelcome side effect of Covid. Funeral directors and ministers have worked hard to draw people’s attention to the online place to donate to a chosen charity, but it has undoubtedly meant a decrease in donations. The careful positioning of a box in the place where people are turning to one another and waiting to talk to the family is crucial in fundraising. Small change makes a big difference, just as it always has done on the church collection plate.
When a much-loved person dies, many people feel the urge to do something positive in his or her memory. And choosing the appropriate charity is a big part of this. It may be to thank a particular set of nurses or hospital department or a hospice; it may be to join a national or global fight against a disease. It may be to give something back to an animal charity or it may be to help train volunteers in a vital service. Whatever it is, it has been carefully thought out and is a way to inject a tiny bit of positivity into an extremely painful time.
Paul Shoobridge, funeral director from East Devon’s Shoobridge Funeral Services, said: “Choosing the right charity to support in a loved one’s memory is hugely important to the families we work with. Our most supported charity is Hospiscare, for which donations have exceeded £35,102. At a time filled with sadness and emptiness, doing something to make a positive difference in the world brings comfort and strength.”
A member of the congregation said to me after a funeral this week: “It’s the little things in life that matter. It’s not the grand gestures that make the biggest difference, but the little every day acts of kindness – the acts of giving.”