Headmaster, Robert Upton, writes a weekly blog post.
The most recent post is below and past posts can be found using the links on this page.
Charity Begins at Home
The proverb, “Charity begins at home” expresses the overriding demands of taking care of one's family, before caring for others. We are besieged by charities on a daily basis, either those based in the UK or further afield, extolling causes that need our support. Good causes are everywhere and the public conscience is overwhelmed by the ever-increasing numbers, all keen to develop a link for charitable funds.
There are around 160,000 general charities operating in the United Kingdom, with a combined income of around £37bn. Schools have always taken pride in their charitable endeavours, often raising significant sums through a mixture of activities including mufti days, cake stalls, donations, spellathons and the like. Perhaps, then, we are managing to ‘do our bit’ for charity and tick the charity box, albeit without possibly going to the point of economic hardship ourselves or inconvenience in any other way.
I worry that children are becoming desensitised by the huge number of charity requests to which they are exposed, with the seemingly endless announcements of disaster, hardship, afflictions and diseases. I wonder if children are to some extent fatigued by the regular consideration of charity. Perhaps this leads children to believe that the world is, at times, a very bleak place.
Giving aid alone is not enough. To be properly charitable it is essential that the sense of responsibility and compassion, the spirit of charity, accompanies it and extends both to our own communities and others. It is about engendering simple kindness and thoughtfulness in the children towards those who are not so fortunate as ourselves in the world. It is about instilling in children the habit of giving and sharing and a sense of responsibility about the world they live in. In simple terms it is a consideration for others and an understanding of their needs.
Yesterday evening the children in Year 8 gave a series of presentations to the School Council and staff members about local children’s charities which they hoped would be adopted by the school as Charity of the Year. Not only were the presentations carefully researched and well delivered, they were also engulfed by a sense of responsibility. The children demonstrated real signs of compassion as they spoke about members of the local community less fortunate than themselves, with a real desire to support them.
Their presentations were not simply fund raising proposals to provide for yet another group of people in need.
In my mind charity does begin at home, but ‘home’ in the sense of beginning close to them. Educating children to consider others and reflect on how another person might be feeling is a fundamental skill for the future. We are not teaching children to give more and more of their hard-earned money away. Rather we are developing an awareness within them of their place in society, be it their family, their school community or the wider world.
I believe the next generation is more community-minded than we have been, more aware, more international in their thinking, more altruistic. It is important that they do not come to think of charity as just an endless stream of good causes, for there will always be good causes; rather, we need to imbue them with the spirit of charity in their lives, a particular mindset so they will look charitably at those in their own country while also looking outwards to see what they can do to help others, as citizens of the global community.