By Shauna Mc Hugh
An Offaly schoolgirl made national headlines recently for her astounding fundraising efforts. Ten-year-old Lexie Delaney has raised over €3,000 to help the homeless, with the help of her family and classmates. As well as organizing several fundraisers, the selfless child has even donated some of her own communion money to the cause.
While such generosity is remarkable at any age, would it be more surprising if an adult were to do the same thing? In post-recession Ireland, where we’ve all had to make sacrifices just to make ends meet and get ourselves by, have us ‘adults’ become all too familiar with turning a blind eye to those less fortunate than ourselves?
As children, we are blissfully unaware of all the financial pressures that lie ahead in later life. Our parents often took care of everything for us, and never let on if, or when, there were money problems at home. When you have a good upbringing and want for nothing, it’s easy to believe, as a child, that you have an endless supply of money.
Once you move out and make the unwelcome discovery of how expensive adult life is, from crippling rent prices to petrol costs and weekly grocery shops, reality quickly kicks in. When you barely have enough funds to finance your own life, how can you possibly help someone else to pay for theirs, no matter how desperately you want to?
As well as being preoccupied with our own financial woes, adults are also less naïve than young children. We’ve all read enough stories about charity scams and hoaxes to make us think twice about donating to so-called good causes. In 2016, The Journal revealed that many of Ireland’s top charities had CEOs earning extravagant six-figure annual salaries. These charities included Barnardo’s, The Irish Cancer Society, Focus Ireland, and the ISPCA, to name just a few.
Meanwhile, in local news, a Galway man was recently discovered to be holding bogus charity collections. Brian Ward from Tuam received a prison sentence of two months, after Gardai approached him during a collection for Focus Ireland on Galway’s Shop Street and he failed to produce any authorization from the charity.
Therefore, it’s not as simple as adults being less generous than children, but rather that they’re more cautious with their money. Why would we put hard-earned money into a bucket, only to later read headlines that make us question who the donation actually goes to? Even when donating to a legitimate charity, there are issues we can’t ignore. Surely there’s a problem when the general public feels ashamed that they can’t afford to make a meaningful donation to the very same organizations powered by bosses earning salaries that most of us can only dream of?
With all this being said, I sincerely hope that Lexie doesn’t lose her generous nature as she grows up. I do believe that the majority of us adults remain as caring and generous as we were in childhood, it’s just that our best wishes to help others often come into conflict with our need to look out for ourselves first and foremost, now that we’re less reliant on our parents to do so for us.
In an ideal world, we would all go our whole lives with Lexie’s child-like optimism, that our acts of goodwill can make a difference to those who need it most, ignorant of the stories of corrupt charity schemes. Sometimes, though, adult life is just so difficult to steer in the right direction that it’s impossible to think of bettering a stranger’s life as well.
Adults don’t have less generosity than children, we just don’t have the same blind faith that children do in charity, and we have learned the value of money, through tough life experiences that children, like Lexie, haven’t been exposed to yet.
I, personally, would love to have achieved as much as Lexie has for the homeless community, but as a struggling student surrounded by many others in the same sinking boat, I don’t think any fundraiser we could put together would be very effective. It’s not because we don’t want to help the disadvantaged, it’s just that we’re only a SUSI payment away from becoming charity cases ourselves…