I’d just finished doing a bit of shopping, after a well-earned couple of hours relaxing at my local Café Nero, reading the paper over a long cup of coffee.
Having walked about two hundred yards back towards home I realised, with a start, that I hadn’t got what I’d really come out for; my lunch.
Being in a nice relaxed frame of mind I just turned back to go to the supermarket. It is in a small shopping mall which has an atrium where there are always one or two market stalls selling various things from cheap handbags to roadside recovery.
But today there was a small display stand that just grabbed my attention.
Medecins Sans Frontieres
Normally I am not taken in by these public fund raising stalls. I make my own decisions about the charities I support in the privacy of my own home.
But something felt different about this one so I stopped and started talking with Jasmine. It’s Jasmine you can see in the photo.
I was already aware of the organisation and the work they do; so what was it that made me stop today?
Jasmine was lovely, easy to talk to and not at all pushy. She explained that she was one of only five full time fundraisers in the UK and that she was on a gap year before going back to university to do a PHD and she was doing it to support her friends working for MSF more on the frontline.
I decided to sign up for a monthly donation. The first time I have done so on the street, to a chugger.
According to Wikipedia the word chugger is an amalgam of charity and mugger, because that’s what it can sometimes feel like. But not on this occasion.
As I wandered around Sainsbury’s agonising over what to get for lunch; it took me longer to make that decision than it did to decide to sign up to MSF, I wondered why I had felt compelled to become a supporter.
The answer came slowly, as I walked back with my carrier bag of sausages, onions and black pudding.
Medecins Sans Frontieres is the first organisation I’ve come across that has no political or religious connections; as I understand it from Jasmine, it refuses money from these sources, so it can be seen to be truly neutral in the countries in which it operates; so it needs to raise money from the general public.
It exists for one purpose, to quote its mission statement:
Medecins Sans Frontieres provides medical assistance throughout the world to the victims of war and disaster without discrimination and irrespective of race, religion, creed, gender or political affiliation.
In a world that is increasingly becoming divisive in its political leanings, where some of the vested interests of rich societies are singling out the minorities, the disadvantaged and the repressed as being the cause of their economic woes, Medecins Sans Frontieres stands out, to me, as an organisation that represents the very opposite of those who would separate, castigate and blame.
As Jasmine spoke to me it suddenly seemed there was something I could do. It could only be a small gesture compared to those who actually put themselves on the line and work on the front line, but it is something.
I have never understood the arguments of those who say we need to separate and divide in order to protect ourselves, our families, our friends and our societies.
I can’t understand how people who demand to be included and part of our society say that because Donald Trump does not support those views he should now be excluded and his visit to the UK cancelled.
Inclusion cannot be selective by definition and it seems to me that the debates that preceded the Brexit vote and the Trump election brought to light a disturbing energy. I did what I could at the time by voting to stay as part of Europe but democracy ruled and more people voted to separate.
By choosing to support Medecins Sans Frontieres it feels like I’m doing what I can to bring some balancing energy to work against the energy of separation.
If you feel the same and would like to do something that brings the world closer together here’s a link to the website.
When I got back home and lunch had settled, it felt that the events of the day were all just meant to be.