comic relief

I’m not asking you for money. I’m just asking you to think.

Friday is a massive day in the UK, and even though I’m thousands of miles away, I’m following along and trying to help as much as I can!  On the third Friday of March each year, known nationally as “Red Nose Day”, the entire country bands together to raise money in countless different ways to help impoverished or underprivileged people across the UK, and around the world.  Currently, Comic Relief is supporting projects across the world, including helping young people with mental health issues, including dealing with self-harm and suicidal thoughts; sexually exploited and trafficked young people, the elderly, those experiencing domestic or sexual abuse, local communities, and helping develop technology to better help people with disabilities. And that’s just at home. Internationally, Comic Relief is making enormous strides to help children living and working on the street, people affected by HIV and AIDS, women and girls, people affected by conflict, those living in slums, giving people access to education and healthcare, helping develop systems so communities can become self-sufficient, and protecting families from social injustice, abuse and neglect.

This may sound like I’m trying to ask you for a donation, but I’m not. Today I just want to write about this incredible cause, and just spread awareness of how big of a difference people can make if they really band together. If you’re not familiar with Comic Relief, allow me to explain: For a few weeks every March, absolutely everyone from the local postman to the nation’s favourite celebrity will be doing something to get involved in doing something to make this world a better place. Taxi drivers donate a day’s fares to the charity. Schools and workplaces have fundraisers across the country, and everyone joins in in “doing something funny for money.” Teachers lead classes of students in activities and contests; employees hold talent shows, shave their heads, walk around in costumes, run marathons, sit in baths full of baked beans, throw pies at bosses and even hold T-shirt relays, where branches of a company across the country take part in getting the shirt from one end of England to the other, having it ride all sorts of modes of transport with staff and taking in landmarks across the country.

Celebrities from all modes of entertainment get in on the action too, and raise hundreds of thousands in donations – 100% of which goes straight to changing countless lives throughout the world.  For the last few weeks, groups of celebs have given up all their creature comforts to experience life in one of the world’s most impoverished and unsanitary places – the Kibera slum on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya. Almost 4,000 people joined in at the Royal Albert Hall to blast out Ride of the Valkyries on kazoos to break a Guiness World Record. Stars of stage and screen join together to create parodies of popular TV shows, and favourite TV programmes air short specials during which people can make a pledge to the charity.  A couple of years ago, a team of some of my favourites (including the nation’s favourite radio DJ, the lead singer of one of the biggest bands in the world, and the beautiful Cheryl Cole) went on a six-day trek to climb Kilimanjaro, experiencing freezing temperatures, exhaustion, and altitude sickness to raise money for malaria nets in Africa.  The six-part documentary was incredible, moving, and absolutely awe-inspiring, and I remember bawling as I watched them reach the summit, and find out they’d raised over 3.3 million pounds – over $5,000,000 through the climb alone.  This year, another team went on a hundred-kilometre trek in 100 degree heat across the desert – all in an effort to raise money for people living unimaginably tough lives in Africa and the UK. As I write, the aforementioned DJ is currently broadcasting live on  national radio for thirty-seven hours straight – they’re in the eighth hour, and are at 93 thousand pounds already.  [Update: 4:47 PM CST – at hour fifteen, they have a giant beacon of a building promoting the show towering over London, and are at a quarter of a million. Update: Thursday morning: hour THIRTY-TWO, and over £600,000 -that’s over a million dollars!!) Tomorrow night, there’ll be a TV marathon culminating celebrity activities, comedy specials, and a documentary on the desert trek, with the final amount announced to the nation on just how much they’ve done to help countless lives across the world.

It’s things like this that make me proud to be British. I wish Comic Relief could go international, and North America could build their own nation-wide team of events and activities designed to change the world. Where every TV show, radio station, and newspaper had coverage of all the things people were doing to raise money, The power of a team on this scale, where everybody is involved, is absolutely phenomenal, and though I’m not asking you to donate, I am just asking you to take a moment to think, just for a second, about how lucky you are. If you have Internet access and are simply able to read these words, you are blessed. If you don’t have to worry about dinner tonight, or if your home is going to be safe, you are blessed. If you have access to water, and working limbs, you are blessed. And just for a moment, I’d like you to reflect on the good things you really do have in your life right now. Maybe you don’t like your job, or maybe you had a fight with your boyfriend. Maybe you ran out of milk, or your laptop is broken. Maybe you missed the bus. But please, if just for a minute or two, think about the thousands of people elsewhere in the world, who are living in war-torn or impoverished countries. Who lost their vision, or a limb. Whose entire families have been taken away by a catastrophic natural disaster. Who can’t afford to provide for their children, or who die from disease leaving those children to fend for themselves, or who go home to be abused every night. If you feel moved enough to donate to Comic Relief, you can from anywhere in the world just by going here. We may not be living our ideal life, but we can count our blessings. We may not be in a position to donate, but we can spread awareness. And we may not be able to change the entire world, but we can make a dent, and go about our days with a spirit of gratitude, servanthood, and compassion.