Jackie Bird’s Col­umn

“I am not sug­gest­ing that Scots have the mo­nop­oly in gen­eros­ity but we can take a tiny bit of credit...”

No. 1 Magazine - - CONTENTS -

At a char­ity din­ner not so long ago, I watched as a woman bid for just about ev­ery item in the auc­tion. I reckon she bought about half the prizes, from a signed foot­ball jer­sey to a trip on a boat. Else­where in the room other guests were do­ing their bit and rais­ing what amounted to tens of thou­sands of pounds to keep a won­der­ful lo­cal hospice in busi­ness. These gen­er­ous peo­ple were not mega rich, nor were they celebri­ties. The woman, I later learned, had been lucky in the lot­tery and two of the big­gest spend­ing ta­bles were from a roof­ing com­pany and a firm of floor­ers. I’m sure they nei­ther wanted nor needed most of the lots they went home with, but the com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor was that they had ei­ther been blessed with or worked hard for good for­tune and were pre­pared to spread it around. At this time of year when the Chan­cel­lor does his sums and pre­pares to tell us the news about our fi­nances, you often hear the cry – the rich must pay their fair share. It’s a state­ment of fact but it comes with an im­pli­ca­tion; that what­ever their fair share is, they’re not al­ready pay­ing it. Now what the var­i­ous tax rates should be set at are for the politi­cians to squab­ble over, and are way above my pay grade, but I be­lieve that too often the wealthy get a bad press. That’s not to say that all af­flu­ent peo­ple are do-good­ers. There are rich peo­ple who are bad eggs as well as poverty stricken in­di­vid­u­als who’re rot­ten to the core, but what we don’t often see, or give credit for, is the gen­eros­ity of those who have a bob or two. Be­cause my du­bi­ous tal­ent is read­ing out loud, and be­cause I have a cer­tain de­gree of pro­file, I’m in­vited to quite a few char­ity events and each time I come away feel­ing hum­ble. The vol­un­teers and work­ers at var­i­ous char­i­ties do a mag­nif­i­cent job and can’t be praised enough, but you don’t often find out about the largesse of a lo­cal en­tre­pre­neur, or the gen­eros­ity of the lot­tery win­ner you last saw – and prob­a­bly en­vied – quaffing cham­pagne and be­ing pre­sented with a big cheque. Who knew she went on to give a chunk of that cash to those not quite as lucky as she? More often than not the pros­per­ous go about their giv­ing qui­etly and with­out fan­fare. It’s re­as­sur­ing to know that no mat­ter how ugly our world be­comes, a mea­sure of our in­born hu­man­ity is that when peo­ple be­come rich so many of them want to spend a bit of it do­ing some­thing good. We’ve all been to char­ity events and the num­ber of small un­sung firms who en­able them by con­tribut­ing is in­spir­ing. I only have the in­side track on their gen­eros­ity be­cause when I’m host­ing these events I deal with the or­gan­is­ers and learn that the ta­ble flow­ers or ta­ble gifts have been given for free; like­wise the raf­fle prizes, or that the food or en­ter­tain­ment is the re­sult of spon­sor­ship by com­pa­nies who ring-fence a per­cent­age of their prof­its each year sim­ply to be given away. It may be the guilt of good for­tune, but it’s a joy to be­hold. They say that with great power comes great re­spon­si­bil­ity, well the same can be said of wealth. The re­ally big-hit­ters, multi-mil­lion­aires and bil­lion­aires spend huge amounts of time and en­ergy not just mak­ing do­na­tions, but set­ting up char­i­ta­ble trusts so that they can give away their wads in the most ef­fec­tive way. I know of one fab­u­lously wealthy Scot who has sent his en­tire fam­ily on a course which teaches the uber rich how to spread their char­ity money pro­duc­tively. These days they also give their money away much ear­lier in their lives – be­quests from the grave are be­ing re­placed by bounty from the liv­ing. I am not sug­gest­ing Scots have the mo­nop­oly in gen­eros­ity, but we can take a tiny bit of credit in that the pro­to­type for large-scale phi­lan­thropy is reck­oned to be An­drew Carnegie, a pen­ni­less Scot who be­came the world’s rich­est man and then gave it all away. Cur­rent day ty­coon Sir Tom Hunter tells the story of vis­it­ing the Carnegie Cor­po­ra­tion in New York and be­ing in­spired by its phi­los­o­phy. He says af­ter that visit he be­came de­ter­mined not to be the rich­est man in the grave­yard and has do­nated mil­lions to good causes. It’s un­der­stand­able to envy the world of the “haves and the have yachts”, but I also hope that those of us not in their league have the gen­eros­ity of spirit to ap­plaud the good that they do.

“Be­cause my du­bi­ous tal­ent is read­ing out loud, I’m often in­vited to quite a few char­ity events and each time I come away feel­ing hum­ble.”

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