It’s Lent. Anyone growing up in Ireland knows that Lent means Trócaire boxes. Trócaire boxes come in flatpacks (note that, Ikea) and require home assembly. The three seconds it takes to fold the flatpack into a box complete with a money slot is worth as much more in terms of sheer satisfaction. This year, though, Trócaire is working with secondary school students to design their own Trócaire box.
The idea is to put money in it (the almsgiving part of Lent). Theoretically, you are to put all the money you would have spent on sweets had you not given up sweets (the fasting part of Lent). For me, as a kid, this was a little more difficult.
The concept of weekly pocket money never made it to our house. We were dependent on visiting relatives who would usually give a pound note and that was too big to fit through the money slot no matter how small I folded it (yes, there was a time…). And as we weren’t buying sweets, we’d no reason to go to the shop to buy the quarter pound of yellow bonbons and get change.
We’d resort to checking under the car seats and ramming our fingers down the back of the couch to scavenge what pennies we could. And maybe, just maybe, the box would rattle by the time Easter Sunday came around and we had to bring it back to the church. You didn’t want the loud rattle – that’d mean you hadn’t saved enough. You wanted the dull, thud-like rattle that went with a major hoard of coins. Ah, I remember it well.
I can’t remember when I got too big for the Trócaire box. It might well have been around the time yer man was rumoured to have absconded with funds raised for another charity, Górta. I got disillusioned with big charities with big overheads, resolving that when I gave, I’d give locally. Or, if giving internationally, I’d give to someone I knew in the field. It’s a decision that has served me well. That said, Trócaire does great work and I am all for the idea of getting kids into the habit of giving to charity.
I grew up in a country where we were trained to give from the minute we first realised we were getting. It was always about sharing. In December 2020, GoFundMe named Ireland the most generous country in the world.
GoFundMe says that Ireland made the most donations per capita in 2020, making it the most generous country in the world on the 10-year-old crowdfunding site.
We’re hard-wired. It’s in our blood.
I suspect, though, that as my man Antony de Mello pointed out, many of us are delusional givers – we give not out of concern for the project or the cause or the person, but to make ourselves feel better. And I’ll hold up my hand here and say that I’ve noticed a direct correlation between what I spend on a night out and what I give to homeless people I meet the next day. Yep. I’m Irish. Guilt runs through me like a dose of Andrews on an empty stomach.
It’s not all guilt-driven though. Not all of it.
Occasionally something strikes a chord and I can’t resist.
A case in point was a recent posting I tripped over from the Budapest Exiles rugby club: Budapest Exiles for Budapest Homeless. They’ve decided to help Utcáról Lakásba (From streets to homes) to collect money to renovate an apartment for a family in need. They’re doing 15,000 burpees @ 100 forints a burpee in an effort to raise 1.5 million HUF [that’s about €4000 or $5000].
Great, I thought. But what’s a burpee? I asked the Exiles:
Wowser. I can’t say I’d ever be tempted. Not for 100 000 ft. Well, maybe for 100 000 ft.
I knew the late Alan Rees was involved in fundraising for youth rugby in Budapest and the main man behind the Rugby Watching and Beer Drinking Society. And while I’d vaguely heard of the Budapest Exiles, an amateur rugby club in the city, I’d no idea that they competed in Hungary’s top division. I didn’t even know Hungary had a division.
The team was founded in 1991 by a group of expats, and is nowadays represented by players from over 15 different nationalities, as well as a core of Hungarian players. A Ladies team was added in 2009 who have gone on to represent the Pink and Black all over the country. The teams compete their home games at Kincsem Park with the boys winnng a triple of National Champions of Hungary in the years 2016-18. The team is currently sitting third in the league with a game in hand.
I like my rugby. And I like people who have the wherewithal to do some good in the community they’ve chosen to live in – a home from home as it were. In my idyllic world, it’s an obligation.
But what of the charity they’re supporting?
Utcáról Lakásba provides cheap rental homes and social work for homeless people and people in need. They renovate empty, municipally owned apartments and manage privately owned apartments. Currently they provide a safe home in 31 apartments for 72 people – mostly retired people, families with children, and people with disabilities.
I give thanks on a daily basis that I have a bed to sleep in at night. No one in this day and age should be homeless. I’m all for a living wage, proportionate taxes, and the common good. I don’t know, or care, where that puts me on the political spectrum, but reading that the country’s MPs earned 276% more than the national average in 2019 while the number of homeless I see on the streets in the city is growing each time I visit, that sickens me.
To go some way towards ticking off the almsgiving part of my Lenten duties, I bought myself some burpees. Hats off to them all. I say. It’s a great initiative.
If you fancy donating, they’ve made it easy. Remember, every burpee counts. And they have facemasks!
If you’d like to train with the Budapest Exiles, you can join them every Tuesday and Thursday from 19:30 till 21:00 at Spartacus Sportellep (Kőér Utca 1/3, near Határ út metro station). Every member receives an official document allowing them to travel after curfew. [And for those reading this who don’t live in Hungary, we have an 8 pm curfew.]