CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 23 September 2017

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People stand for people 
at the bazaar

Think November, think Caritas. Think Caritas, think bazaars. This is the message from the Catholic aid agency for the coming month.

Over the coming three Sundays, public venues in various parts of the city will play host to one of the city’s largest charity events. It may not be the biggest money-spinner, but in terms of the number of people who give time, energy, talent and service, it rates high.

The bazaars begin with volunteering and they end with volunteering. That is what makes them work. They place first things first. It is not money that makes the biggest impact on people’s lives, it is what people can do that makes a difference in society.

Volunteering has an impact for good. And this leads to more volunteering. That is the power of the dynamic of the Caritas Bazaars. The essence of volunteering is figuring out how to give time and talent to those in need. It is a process of developing an awareness and sensitivity to the needs of others in order to make a difference in their lives, and then doing it.

While money is important in any charitable outreach, it is the quality of the hands that stretch out to those in need that makes the difference. The bazaars are a call to care. The organisers call for volunteers to put up the stalls and stock them. They call for people man them and they call for help in the clean up.

The bright décor and general air of joy that pervades the bazaar calls people to dip their hands in their pockets to do a bit for others. But more than that, they are invited to a face-to-face encounter with those who have volunteered to do the support work.

Even for the casual visitor, it would be difficult not to be struck by the overall enthusiasm of the day, from the street performers, the hawkers, right through to those who are benefiting from the Caritas outreach who also show off their wares and ways.

But more than that, the sheer size of the events and their four-Sunday spread is a statement to society that there are people in need among us and it is the responsibility of every citizen to do their bit to respond to that need.

Flashy dinners in ritzy hotels may make more money with less effort in a fraction of the time, but they do far less in raising awareness in society. Caritas is a people’s organisation. It is built on the backs of those who choose to take the time to learn, to care and to respond. That is its professionalism. It is people for people.

The witness is powerful, because it is not a witness of words, but one of action, where words are only used when absolutely necessary. It also touches areas where government or professional services struggle, changing attitudes among the general public.

The responsibility to provide opportunities to those that civic society leaves out falls to all of us, because many opportunities come in the humdrum of everyday life. A prejudice dissolved in an employer’s mind against people from certain backgrounds can bring a much-hoped for break in life to someone who is down and out.

It is not just a challenge to act, but a challenge to understand. That is what makes a harmonious society. JiM