OPINION: Thinking about ourselves can help us to give

Geraldine Peacock, a charity commissioner and a civil service commissioner

In his recent speech Civil Renewal: a New Agenda David Blunkett quoted Pericles: "An Athenian citizen does not neglect the state because he takes care of his own household."

In the last few days, three events brought this to mind as I went about my business.

On Saturday we had a street party. It was the first one I've been to since I moved to London 15 years ago and it was not just about celebrating neighbourliness. A real mix was there, from families who had lived in the street for over 100 years to the young scriptwriter from Nigeria.

There were stalls, a barbecue, music and dancing. The money raised went to renovate the little park at the end of the road.

My leaving party at Guide Dogs was a relaxed experience - different to when I joined, when such events were very formal. Then, people attended but didn't mingle, and moved on as soon as the speeches were made. Last week people didn't really make speeches, but reminisced about how far we had all come. Although there were still difficult things to face, we could tackle them because we had grown to respect the importance of working towards a common goal, and having some fun along the way.

The third event was a discussion at a meeting of chief executives, fundraising managers and finance directors about new formulae for generating income, which was interesting as we all came from the disability world. The talk was of strategic collaboration rather than competition and acknowledgement that, while it is important to encourage altruism, there is nothing wrong with self-interest as a motivation to raise money. This includes not just supporting causes close to your heart, but things like lotteries and sponsored treks, where you would combine fun with raising money.

The link between these events and the Pericles quote? To me it's about recognising that addressing our own satisfaction frees us to give our time, interest, skills, and money. "Charity begins at home" can mean just that. In fact, we all have several homes - whether it is individual, community, or a group of disability charities -which we need to balance. If we feel comfortable there, we contribute in confident ways to a greater good.

And, to misquote Michael Caine: "Not a lot of people seem to know that."

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