Real giving takes the cake

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Copy of cz Charity Christmas Cake 8405

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The Lions Club is selling two brands of charity Christmas cake. Picture: Willem Law

Cape Town - It’s the deepest irony of our time that giving has become taking. Humankind’s most gracious trait, the ability to give without expecting something in return, without having an agenda, without there being a catch that will somehow end up benefiting the giver more than the one gifted, has become a thing so rare that when you occasionally see it your breath is taken away.

There seems hardly any point in entering competitions any more. If your cellphone pings, you know that most of the time it will be somebody selling you something, or telling you that you have won something you haven’t. Only once in a while will it be a text you want, from a friend or someone else who genuinely cares about you.

At least once a week, there’ll be one of those exciting text messages telling you that you have (again!) won the lottery, with the sender even being kind enough to tell you quite how much you have won. R1.4 million! OMG! Add that to the R2.3m you won three weeks ago, the R1.9m you won last week and the R253 000 you won yesterday and, well, you can just retire and book a cruise around the world on the Queen Mary.

There was a time when those text messages and emails about lottery wins, and the texts about having won some or other Rica draw, did give you something. They gave you false hope. Surely there can no longer be many people left who are still naive enough not to have worked out it’s yet another scam, and that some of those people in those cars that pass you on the freeway, some of those people on the plane to Frankfurt and some of those people in the high-rises you pass in the CBD are out to get your money.

Just give me (there’s that word again) your personal details and I will give you (the word again, corrupted) something really nice. Or maybe take something from you.

Then there are the texts telling you that you have won one of a range of great prizes, and you’re invited to a great big hall where you have to sit at a desk opposite some flunkey. It feels like what it might feel like to visit somebody you know in prison. It’s explained to you that you have to sign up. For whatever it is they want you to sign up for. Which will be something that works for them, not for you. Something that takes money from you and gives it to them – this, all having begun with you being told you have “won” something. And once you do, woohoo, then you defo will win one of the following: a shiny new car; a trip for two to Mauritius, all expenses paid; a TV; a calculator, or a pen. And the hall slowly empties, and you watch all the people leaving, carrying their free pens. And for some years to follow, money will leave your account once a month and go into the pockets of the “giver”.

The sad irony is that there still are genuine competitions, and people who organise them who really do give people prizes at the end of it all. But how do you know the real one from the fake? So I don’t enter anything. If I see a guy in a wheelchair at the supermarket entrance, and donate something, I don’t bother to fill in my full details because even though they are genuine, were they to inform me a couple of months later that I had won something I’d be too sceptical to reply in case it was somebody else after my details.

I feel very differently about people who genuinely give, like the nice man from the Lions Club who came to see me the other day to ask me to help them decide which of two Christmas cakes would be the better one to sell for funds to help genuinely needy people. The kind of man who wants nothing in return, but is happy merely to give, and that’s that. And there is nothing mere about it. It is a great thing.

Last year I made a Christmas cake. I made one the year before as well. But this year I’ve decided to urge everyone rather to buy a Christmas cake from a charitable organisation, even if you are not Christian. I wouldn’t call myself one either, but a season of goodwill need know no colour or creed if the objective is only to give. “But I don’t like raisins,” says a colleague. Then buy one and give it to someone who does. “But I’m Muslim,” says another. Then buy one and give it to someone of indeterminate religion. Hey, atheists have to eat too, not to mention us agnostics.

Clive Fox of Merriman Lions Club markets two brands of Christmas cake under the slogan “A cake for all seasons – a cake for one reason – to help the poor.” They’re alcohol-free, individually taste-tested by various people and I can vouch for the quality. (Want brandy in it? Add some yourself.)

There’s a delicious one made by Compass Bakery (R65, or R780 for 12 for those of you feeling particularly generous) and this cake is rich, dark, dense and luscious. There are various phone numbers for different regions, but if you call Clive on 072 159 0028 he will be able to give you a contact closer to home.

Cheers to a wonderful season of giving, regardless of who we are and what we believe. - Weekend Argus

Read more of Tony Jackman's food writing at www.sliver.co.za

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