Giving, helping, supporting... it’s all part of our ‘Irish nature’

At a time when so many are questioning faith and faith matters in general, it is marvellous to see people's generosity, warmth and kindness, so says John Arnold
Giving, helping, supporting... it’s all part of our ‘Irish nature’

CARING SIDE: The annual SHARE Christmas charity campaign in Cork by young people is proof that giving is still part of Irish life

IRISH people have great nature in them. It’s a difficult concept to explain — what is meant by ‘nature’ in the context of people? — but I’m sure most of ye know what I mean.

I have never lived outside of Ireland so I can’t compare this country with any other place, but visitors that come here often remark on our generosity, warmth, kindness, hospitality and welcome.

Are they all components of ‘nature’? Maybe so, but in any case it’s something we can be proud of as an Irish trait.

There’s a lovely old Irish séan-focail ‘Briseann an dúchas tri shuile an chait’ which, literally translated, means that ‘Heredity breaks out through the eyes of the cat’.

That word dúchas is probably as close as we’ll get to the meaning and content of ‘nature’ but if we check the dictionary we get a myriad of possible meanings — nature, hereditary transmission, essential characteristics, instinct, wildness, innate quality of a person or culture.

Wow, there’s a lot packed into one small little wordeen, surely! Thanks be to God we Irish have it in abundance anyhow, wherever it came from.

Our ‘nature’ is what gets us to do things we needn’t do — things we are not bound to do.

People often say to me, if I say I’m off to such and such an event, a ‘gig’, fundraiser or session, “Why do you bother?” Maybe I’m like the girl in Oklahoma!, the musical, ‘I can’t say No’ — but, in reality, that’s not the reason. If I can help by telling a few stories and singing a few verses, well, so be it.

Another Irish saying sums up our inter-dependability on each other: ‘Ar scath a chéile a mhaireann na daoine’ — we live in each other’s shadows, or no man is an island.

The cynics amongst us — a rare breed indeed but nevertheless a vocal minority — claim that we in Ireland still live in the valley of the squinting windows and that privacy is not respected. Everyone to his own ideas, I suppose, but in my humble opinion it’s better to get involved and use what talents one has rather than becoming afraid of the consequences of doing anything.

Ye’ve all heard the story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done in the community and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realised that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done in the first place. It can go on like that secula saeculorum but, thankfully, in Ireland so many thousands don’t adopt that negative attitude.

Some people love fundraising and others hate it. As one who has stood at hundreds of church gate collections and flogged many raffle tickets, I realise that ‘giving fatigue’ can set in, but then again, generosity knows no bounds and the widow’s mite is still as precious as a large donation.

The amount of fundraising and voluntary time giving in this country is truly stunning. Most sporting and community organisations and groups would wither and die if ’t’were not for volunteers.

I know that a few years ago an EU wide study of the LEADER Rural Development Scheme found that Ireland, of all the EU countries, large and small, stood head and shoulders above the others in terms of a great self-help and local pride ethos. Week in, week out people help out with charitable organisations which help those less fortunate from a health or ability point of view.

Of course, some will argue that it’s the Government or the EU or the HSE should be doing all these tasks. If we all took that attitude we’d be in a sorry state entirely.

Do I feel that we leave the statutory bodies ‘off the hook’ by fundraising to provide and improve facilities? Not really, because the ‘nature’ of most Irish people is to lend a helping hand and long may that continue.

To be fair, it never ceases to amaze me the lengths, and heights too, that people go to in order to help others. Schools, hospitals, sports clubs and sectoral charity groups are mighty. I suppose it’s easy to fundraise for your own club or association — well, easier anyway, but I take my hat off to so many that volunteer their time and talents to help others whom they don’t know or never met.

It was nearly 8pm last Friday when we finished milking the cows. After a long day ’t’would have been easy to throw a few sods of turf on the fire and snooze by the glowing embers. The car, however, was faced for Doneraile and a fundraising event. Just up the road at our own hall the local National School Parents Association were holding an Easter flower arranging demonstration. Over in Glanworth, the Fermoy and District Lourdes Invalid Fund had an event, but I was committed to Doneraile.

I wouldn’t be a great man for heights now so the idea of skydiving 10,000 feet from an aeroplane wouldn’t appeal to me. Tomorrow, Good Friday, Maria Horgan from Doneraile is one of a brave group who are doing the ‘big jump’ down in Kilkenny.

Last Friday, she had organised a ‘live mike’ event in Theach Phadraig, Main Street, Doneraile — a building dedicated to the memory of her brother, Padraig.

Maria’s father, Eamonn, the salt of the earth and a stalwart of Doneraile life, had invited me to attend. The crowd wasn’t huge but, boy, we had a mighty night with singing, poetry, storytelling, food and drink and, above all, a sense of purpose.

In doing the skydive tomorrow, Maria hopes to raise funds for three really worthy causes — St Joseph’s Foundation, Charleville; Red Hill School, Limerick; and Cliona’s Foundation, and the ‘live mike’ was to generate cash for these.

People like Maria Horgan are inspiring. The younger generation often come in for unwarranted criticism but on occasions like last Friday night, one’s chest would swell with pride.

That ‘nature’ is still there in the next generation and long may it bloom and grow.

Many of the young people in Ireland today have their ‘bucket list’ of things to do and places to visit, yet so many give of their time and sweat to undertake fantastic schemes and projects, which help others.

My faith in people, young and old, never wavers but as we drove home from Doneraile in the early hours of last Saturday morning, I was glowing even more with pride and admiration.

Now, in my time I’ve got my chest shaved, got my eyebrow pierced and done a few 24 hour fasts, and while they say ‘the sky’s the limit’, hurtling towards the ground from 10,000 feet? Thanks, but no thanks!

Tomorrow is a solemn day in religious terms, especially for Christians.

At a time when so many are questioning faith and faith matters in general, it is marvellous to see the true Christian spirit descending from the sky — not in the form of a dove, but with a parachute.

Happy Easter to all.

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