On a walk to school my daughter proudly announced that some children’s television presenter had finally reached the South Pole.
“Why did she go there?” I asked.
“For charity,” my daughter replied.
“For charity? You mean she was taking some unwanted clothes to a charity shop that stands on the South Pole?”
“No! She was collecting money for charity.”
“But nobody lives at the South Pole, how is she going to collect money from there?”
“No! She’s collecting the money when she gets back.”
“So let me see if I’ve got this right… This woman has spent a lot of money and used up many resources—equipment, fuel etc.—to undertake an essentially useless activity to raise money for charity?”
“It was a very brave thing to do, not everyone could do it.”
“Well, you’re right about that; not everyone could do it because they don’t get offered the opportunity from a television company. Most people have to work. But anyway, my point is this; she has already spent a large sum of money just getting to the South Pole—which is a useless activity, remember—so this money has to be deducted from the money she collects from her sponsors when she gets back, therefore the total is much reduced. But hey, I suppose the television presenter gets a personal buzz from doing something adventurous and it helps her television career no end. Oh, wait a minute, does that mean she is really doing it for herself and not for the people she is supposed to be collecting the money for? Which charity is she supporting, by the way?”
“I don’t know.”
“Hmm, that proves my point. You remember the television presenter and the useless activity but not the charity that it is all supposed to be about. Why didn’t she think to do an activity that would actually be of benefit to someone?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, why didn’t she get sponsorship to dig a well in Africa? And to make it ‘dangerous’ and ‘dramatic television’ she could do it by just using her teeth. There, that covers all the angles: it’s got jeopardy; it’s worthwhile; she gets even more famous in her career but more importantly, her activity actually produces something—a well. And the children will remember the stunt as being something about a well in Africa so maybe they’ll make the connection that clean water wells are needed in Africa. And of course, after she’s collected the money for completing this worthwhile stunt, she will have more money to build other wells. Doesn’t that make much more sense?”
“In fact, now that I think about it, the whole set up is a bit suspicious. How do we know that the collected money is going to the people who are supposed to be the recipients? How can we be sure that the money isn’t going to building some fancy new headquarters for some charity administrators? If they so enthusiastically support useless activities for raising funds then they could just as easily support useless activities in the spending of the money. No, I think it is far better to do charity work that is local and that you can see the benefits of…”
“Oh look, there’s Joely! Bye daddy!”