Charity is becoming an urban verb much like the word Google. We Google. We Uber. And in a similar vein, many of us Charity. It is such a cool thing to do. And it is such a cool tool for paving our way to social acceptance. Just like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
Er no. A friend pointed out recently that Brangelina made their money first and then became charitable. Just like our dear friends Bill and Melinda. You know, the Gates family.
“I have to make millions before I can even think of doing such charity work. Otherwise, no one is taking care of me,” she hypothesised. 'Who is paying for my shoes before I pay for footwear of the underprivileged kids going to school walking along sharp jagged unpaved roads.'
I may have embellished the last scenario a bit. But this person who is sometimes a friend and often an exasperation, does believe charity begins after the first million (in Trump dollars). So that is one way to go about it. Make money, and then give away some of it. Sort of like an interest scheme with higher powers hoping they will continue to shower you with good fortune.
Others do not necessarily wait for their money to roll in. One local man recently posted on Facebook how he was approached by a woman and child who simply could not eat all day or the day before. It is clear they were not dieting. He took a picture of their sad faces and posted it on Facebook. He hoped it would come second to a picture of 20 sad puppies tearing into the depths of your jilted soul. Nothing is ever sadder than sad puppies.
The kind man then bought her some rice, salt, potatoes and other stuff people can mix together and eat. He also posted detailed pictures of all the things he bought along with a shot of the receipt. And then a short video clip of him handing it to her. There remains no doubt that this man is going to heaven. Or at the very least he will be able to drive up to the gates and get a day pass into bliss after presenting his video evidence. In these days, if you do not have video, it did not happen. His post on a biker group made him famous for doing such a noble thing and infamous for showing how noble he is. While some blasted him for his selfless selfie fetish, others applauded that at least, someone, somewhere has done one thing. A source for inspiration perhaps.
Which brings us to another documented charitable act. It is more effective to be charitable with someone else's money. Which is why famous-ish people document it loudly and in HD. Much like a recent video of a foreigner coming to Bangladesh and handing out sacks of rice to whoever was passing by. That and forcing people to wear t-shirts. A lot of rickshaw pullers that day were amused to add another sack of rice to their existing stock. The hungry, homeless refugees on our borders watching this on their smartphones were not so amused. That is if they had smartphones. Or a wooden blank to call a phone.
And yet, two days ago I saw something that did not meet any of our social media criteria for charitable acts. On my drive home, I saw a car stop in front of me in my narrow alley of a neighbourhood. I could see there was an old man hobbling weakly, supported by a walker, trying to cross the street. The driver in front had stepped out instead of driving around, helping the old man cross taking all of one minute or so. I turned off my lights and waited in awe as I could not see a single cellphone in sight. No screen glowed, no camera flashed, er, flashed. It was odd to view a helpful act without documentation happening. This driver will surely face a tough time getting into heaven. My reverie was broken by a loud horn from an SUV behind me. So I swerved left, blocked him in and felt a tiny, selfish accomplishment. Should I have posted #doneGood, #patienceFORhumanity?
Charity cleans the soul. Sometimes, it is much like sandpaper on tough to remove water stains on a bathroom sink. If charity work causes you pain, you're not doing it right. But it may still benefit someone in need. And that is often the most we can hope for.
Ehsanur Raza Ronny is a confused dad, all-round car guy, model car builder, and cartoonist. He is also Editor of Shift (automobiles), Bytes (technology), and Next Step (career) of The Daily Star.