The DEC appeal to raise funds for victims of the Haiti earthquake has been open for 10 days and just passed the £42 million mark. Before I blogged about it last week it stood at just £12 million. Coincidence?

Yesterday I did a couple hours of bucket holding in a train station somewhere in the UK. I can’t disclose the precise location because it could help those trying to discover my true identity, and it’s vital my identity remains a secret. It’s vital or my name’s not J- oops! Almost let the cat out of the bag there! I’ll have to be more careful. It’s tough, though, not dropping hints. Already you know I’ve got a cat and a bag.

But I digress. Yesterday I did a couple hours of bucket holding. It was the best of people, it was the worst of people. Lots of people gave lots of money, more than any collection I’ve volunteered for before. Instead of coppers I got pound coins, instead of pound coins I got notes, and instead of polite smiles I got “Isn’t it awful” conversation. It seems this is one of those times when people realise that humans are humans everywhere, not really separated by borders or ideologies but together in the universe, forever bound by our wish to live happily with dignity and freedom and love around us, that what happens to a Haitian happens to us all, that we should offer help to them as if to a neighbour. But there were also plenty of arseholes knocking about.

Thousands of people walked past and gave nothing, outnumbering the givers by about 20 to one. Now, I don’t want to judge. It’s entirely possible they’d already given to one of the other bucket holders in the station, or already donated online, or already loaded a cargo plane with survival kits, or already flown to Haiti to pull victims from the rubble, but it’s more likely they’re just a bit tight.

Make no mistake, stinginess is the issue here. There are not enough poor people in the country that thousands could congregate in a train station to walk past me on a Friday afternoon. You’d have to be broke to the point of homelessness not to throw 10p in a bucket. One woman, loaded down with bags from Gap, stopped to ask me if there was a Starbucks in the station and walked out when I said there was only a Costa. And she gave me not a coin. Not a bean. Not a sausage. To be fair, no one else gave me beans or sausages but they did at least give me cash. She gave me nothing. And while £42 million sounds good, when you think there are 60 million of us in the country it starts to look like the majority aren’t giving, or aren’t giving much.

In summary, lessons learned from the collection:
(i) when we get together in the spirit of humanity and brotherhood we can be generous according to our means, the rich can support the poor, the strong can support the vulnerable, and good things can happen in far away places;
(ii) humans are a bit shit.

Photo credit: Fred Barnard at Wikimedia Commons