Twenty-nine years ago, Band Aid had the Christmas number one in the UK and, naturally, it’s had a lot of airplay over the last few weeks. Do They Know It’s Christmas has become a traditional part of the season, though its original purpose was to provide support to the starving in Ethiopia.
Of course, the fund-raising reached a whole new level the following summer as Live Aid came together. For an avid concert-goer like me it was the opportunity of a lifetime. I’d seen a lot of the acts due to perform at Wembley, but there were still a few I hadn’t seen and – at that time – it seemed unlikely I’d have the chance to see some of them again.
Unfortunately, I let my principles get in the way of a good time. I had the chance of a ticket, but I really didn’t think the event would make a difference. The funds they were aiming to raise (£1million) didn’t seem enough, and the starving Ethiopians were just another story that followed so many we’d seen over the years. Any efforts made to help seemed like putting a plaster on a cut throat: at best a temporary fix that only delayed the inevitable. To me, going to the gig felt hypocritical – so I didn’t.
As it turned out, I was wrong. The money raised on the day was thirty times the target, and – depending on which reports you read – ultimately £150 million was raised worldwide. So there was enough money to make a difference.
But it did more than that. Live Aid’s success also changed perceptions. For a start, we faced up to horrendous conditions existing in parts of the world. But it also showed us we could do something about it.
It’d be naive to suggest that Live Aid, Comic Relief, Sports Aid and other similar campaigns have solved all the world’s problems. It would be equally naive to think that every penny we’ve donated has gone directly to help the people we want it to. Some argue against giving aid because some of the money ends up in the wrong hands. But that’s the wrong attitude – and not dissimilar to my own in 1984. The outcome we want is to save lives and create hope and that’s been achieved, even if we haven’t saved everyone and some of the money’s gone astray. To not give won’t solve that.
So changes are being made. In the grand scheme of things, only tiny steps are being taken but, if we make enough of them, one day we may just transform our world. Not in my lifetime, but one day.
There’s an added bonus I’ve discovered over the years. Every time I donate money, I notice my own circumstances improve. Some think it’s Karma. I suspect it may have more to do with subliminal effects on my subconscious: if I’m willing to contribute to others, surely I’m more deserving of rewards that come my way. Whatever the reason, it seems to be a win-win situation.
In a way I’m being selfish. I don’t give up years of my life helping people, or travel to disaster areas. All I’m giving up is a small portion of my money and, even though I’m no multi-millionaire celebrity (not yet, the book sales need to go up a bit!), I already possess more material wealth than a high proportion of the world population. It’s very easy to forget in this period of so-called “austerity” that we still live like kings in comparison to most of our fellow human beings.
And I know I’m not alone. The truly great thing is that there’s been a general shift towards helping others. So, as we head into 2014, we should all be optimistic for the future.
Happy New Year!