Don’t Clap – Just Who Am I Volunteering For?

Eros – ah, love is in the air!

Now I’m no longer at the coal face, I spend some of my time volunteering. I’m hardly unique in that. I like to split my time between helping at a local Youth charity – the Streatham Youth And Community Trust – and a homeless charity – the 999 Club – where we provide a weekday breakfast to any rough sleepers who turn up and a venue to meet up with others who are trying to help those who are either homeless, sofa surfing or in need of help finding a stable and permanent place to live.

It’s iconic and, well, bloody warm too. But it does raise many smiles so that’s all good then.

I was working at one project a while ago when a client complained about something. It was nothing really – I’d misheard and not put sugar in their tea, or some such – and all soon sorted and forgotten but another volunteer was aggrieved. ‘They should be more grateful.’

Getting ready for the Trooping of the Colour – the Queen’s official birthday – the Royals do enormous amounts for charity and people moan and say they’re paid very well so they should but they don’t ask to be Royal, do they? Cut ’em slack, I say (well, except Andrew – he’s an arse)

It took me back, to a dilemma I’d had in the past. As a student, sharing flats for the first time, I came to realise that, for reasons that I can’t really explain, I don’t like dirty kitchens and especially dirty kitchen floors. So I’d wash the floor. Mostly no one said anything, but one time, a lovely thoughtful flatmate told me off. ‘I’ll do it’ and then ‘You make me feel guilty,’ she said.

Our institutions – such as the National Gallery – are free. Or rather tax payers pay for them. Who should we say thank you to, then, for this wondrous gift? Or should we just get over this whole thing about being ‘free’, fight to keep them free at the point of service and enjoy the contents. We’ll miss it when its gone.

I passed it off, but I had an awkward time, because, in all truth, I didn’t want to wait for the point where my flatmate felt they should do the floor and neither did I feel I had the authority to suggest that, wasn’t it about time they did it.

The old and the new and a river runs through it; views like this give of themselves freely. We’re fortunate that we can take all this in. Smile, in case the sky falls on your head tomorrow.

And then, recently I read a criticism of a celebrity who promoted their new TV show when, ostensibly, they were giving their time for nothing to a charity to raise money for such and such a good cause. They questioned the motivation. At the same time, an acquaintance, hearing about some volunteering I’d done was effusive with their praise of my paltry actions. They attributed to me the best of intentions.

Politics get a bad name; but all our politicians get a pittance for their efforts. Some take advantage, many are distorted by party politics and keeping on the right side of those who guarantee their futures but those I’ve met and worked with, of all hues, are out ti do their best for those who they represent. Like Royals, don’t assume the worst. They actually are deserving of thanks, most of the time.

I have a friend, a very close friend who I’ve known for years, worked with too. Now we’re both retired we do things together from time to time. And he’s assiduous – fastidious you’d say – in paying his round, in picking up the tab. He fights tooth and nail to pay for the ticket to a game I might take him too where I’ve bought the tickets, even if the previous two times he’s bought them and refused payment. It’s not that he doesn’t want to be beholden, I realise; it’s because he finds it far easier to give than to receive – in his case it’s not just better to give, it’s in his DNA. So I don’t fight. I sneak things past him, sure, and for bigger things then yes I and others manage to split the costs but bar bills, the price of coffee? It’s not worth it. I’m probably plenty of squids owing but I’d strain our friendship if I tried to do something about it.

Ah, and then there’s religion. Gosh, what a big one. But most of the ardent practitioners are essentially good people, trying to do their bit. Just because they ascribe to a calling to do it, makes it no better, but, and here’s the point,, no worse than someone who comes at it without that background. It’s not the why but the when that matters

Now, I’m the first to admit that years in a large law firm led to me having an overdeveloped ego – some people go to a gym and pump iron; I did the legal heavy lifting and grew an enlarged hubris. Also I’ve always been a carrot man, at heart. I take criticism – indeed I welcome it if it’s more critique than critic – but essentially offer me the carrot of praise rather than the stick of criticism and you’ll get more from me. But don’t try and look for something altruistic in my motivations. It’s not there.

just smile; just enjoy it. Don’t analyse it, question it or second guess it.

I volunteer, I give of my time, because I want to. I probably need to, though I’m not about to go into some psycho-prunner’s chair, looking for why’s and wherefore’s. I have a need to please. It fuels me. I need clean floors, even if part of me likes to think that I’m making someone else’s situation a little better as I’m doing so. But, and here’s the thing, I don’t expect praise, but neither do I expect to trigger guilt in other’s It’s my own Stockholm syndrome, this.

And the recipient’s of charity? Should they be ‘grateful’? No, actually I don’t think they should. Not from me at least. There’s something rather warped if you set out to give, to help and expect thanks. If you’ve asked for help, then yes, say thank you, sure. But if someone puts it out there, then why expect the humbling of the recipient, why a quid pro quo? It’s not a bargain, a contract between you.

My dad had an expression, which he’d use if someone was praising him in such circumstances. ‘Don’t clap, throw money.’ Yes, in a way he was right. But when I think of this aphorism it’s more that, if you want to praise then, instead, you should offer a quid pro quo of your own – give to that charity, give some of that spare time. Don’t give it to me – I neither need it nor does it help much. It’s a sort of lost currency. I’m like my friend. I want to be the giver. So let me.

Happy? You bet!

The images, today come from a walk around the centre with Dog; he’s been having some foot/elbow issues but I think he’s much better and he does love a meander. So we pottered from London Bridge to Victoria via a few famous central London sights. It was such a fab day, too. Mother Nature was in giving mood. Bless her.



About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
This entry was posted in humour, London, thought piece and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Don’t Clap – Just Who Am I Volunteering For?

  1. Lucy Brazier says:

    This is a marvellous post! And I loved the pictures, too. I was out and about around Tower Bridge last Saturday – didn’t wander quite as far as Victoria, Waterloo, in fact. Stopped at a super Greek place by the river. Got to love London.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ritu says:

    Love this post His Geoffleship! It is definitely easier for some of us to give rather than receive!
    Great pics too!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. willowdot21 says:

    Thank you Geoff that was an interesting and enjoyable post . Full of excellent ideas, beliefs and attitudes. Fabulous photos too, the sun always shines on the righteous. I am also delighted to see Dog back on his feet again Ruby sends her love. πŸ’œπŸ’œ

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post and enjoyed the meander πŸ™‚ Great photo’s and so glad Dog is out and about again

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Another one from the heart that gets your point across in a wonderful way! I love when you write these posts Geoff, I linger over my coffee and your words and pictures and savour being in the company of an excellent fellow! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. JT Twissel says:

    I used to spend a lot of time volunteering – so much so that I actually burnt out a few years ago and had to cut back. I’d just retired and felt the intense need to fill time with meaningful things (other than writing). Looks like London’s having some great weather!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Norah says:

    Enjoyed the pics. Enjoyed the chat. While I don’t do as much, or any volunteering in the same way as you – yet – I feel exactly the same way about giving. I do it because I want to. Not because I want thanks and not to make anyone feel guilty. I don’t agree with you about kitchen floors though. You may come and mop mine any time, please. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  8. sherylc6060 says:

    I just finished reading The 5 Languages of Love and it seems your giving friend shows love by giving. It is intuitive of you to accept and understand that. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Charli Mills says:

    Look at that smile…it’s the best of you that you have to give. And while yes, it is “easier” to give than receive, I think many of us could take a lesson from your post and think about our giving — is it like a smile? Do one smile because it makes one look attractive, or does one smile to bring joy to another? And if the joy is not received as we anticipated, how can that rob us of our joy? Sometimes I think people give because it makes them feel better. But feel better in the first place and give from that joyful heart. Then acceptance and accolades don’t matter. Thought-provoking post!

    Liked by 1 person

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