Charity means differently to different people. My grandmom believes in feeding anyone she meets.. from the daily helpers to any extended family member to any child in my building who walks past her door. If she could feed me via phone, she probably would! But clothes, old newspapers, old utensils… NO! They are meant to be ‘sold’ to the raddiwala for money. This included our old clothes, school notebooks, carefully washed Bournvita bottles and even old tattered shoes.
My mom’s beliefs are different. She believes in ‘volunteering’ – from giving blood to teaching anyone who asks her for help to giving her seat on the bus to older travelers, she believes in extending herself. Having had to struggle financially herself, the only time she would open her wallet to give money generously was to aid education in any way – from becoming a guarantor to paying fees to hostel fees to buying books, she has done it all.
My definition of charity? I never believed in it, until recently. I did not believe in unorganized giving – I would contribute annually to a not-for-profit of my choice, but my old clothes, books, vessels – all of them would be dumped in the dumpster, never ‘given’ to any cleaning or cooking help. I never gave ‘giving’ to my support staff any thought.
Until Button was born.
I listened to the stories of my cleaning staff’s children and I began to notice the children on the road. In my head I have categorized them as the ones belonging to ‘begging’ rackets and the ones who actually belong to families who love them, keep them, but in abject conditions (due to various reasons). The latter category I have begun to help. I give away Button’s old toys and clothes and sometimes even books. I don’t think I can help ALL the children I see. Even the one or two I help, I sometimes wonder if I am doing the right thing giving them something that is not sustainable (and against my tenets of organized development). But I do feel sorry to see them robbed of small pleasures like a car or crayon, or even worse the necessity of clothes.
Every morning I cross this dumping ground near my office and I notice a little boy(a boy exactly the same size as Button) being fed by his mom or cuddled by an aunt or teased by his siblings. Yesterday, I saw him playing naked in a black puddle with a used paper cup - my heart sank, my stomach roiled and my temper rose. This morning, I met the mother of the boy, gave her clothes, toys and a healthy dose of ‘sanitary’ advice and reached office. Although I am not sure if I did the right thing, my heart is lighter. At least for some time the boy will not step into sludge(hopefully) and play with toys instead of unhygienic rubbish.
On a more proactive basis, can anyone direct me to an orphanage in Chennai that accepts donations of used toys, clothes and books?