This assembly by Brian Radcliffe invites students to consider what it means to be generous in tough financial times. Reference points are The Sunday Times Rich List and the Channel 4 programme The Secret Millionaire

Resources

Two readers; a copy of The Sunday Times Rich List 2009 (published 26 April 2009) might be useful but is not essential.

Key Stage

This assembly is suitable for use with Key Stages 3, 4 and 5, adapting as appropriate

Engagement

Leader: Have you ever lost any money? Maybe you left your purse on the train or dropped some coins out of the pocket of your jacket. Maybe the money was lost when you tried some clothes on in a shop or perhaps it slid into a crack in the floorboards of your bedroom. How much did you lose? A couple of quid? A fiver? Ten or even twenty pounds?

One moment you had it and the next you didn’t. All those plans about what you were going to do, they had to wait until you got hold of some more money. It doesn’t feel good to lose money, does it?

Reader 1: Since April 2008, Bernie Ecclestone, the boss of Formula 1 Grand Prix racing, has lost 934 million pounds.

Reader 2: In the same time period, Sir Richard Branson lost one and a half BILLION pounds.

Reader 1: Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club, did even worse than those two. He lost 4.7 billion pounds, which represents 40% of his personal fortune.

Reflection

Leader: Imagine how they felt! Bernie Ecclestone, Sir Richard Branson and Roman Abramovich didn’t lose their money in the changing rooms, of course. Their losses came as a consequence of the banking crisis and global industrial recession. Share prices have plummeted and the rich and famous have lost more than most. On TV and in the newspapers they’ve competed for our sympathy.

There is, however, another group who are considerably poorer than they were a year ago but for a different reason, and it’s them I’d like to introduce you to.

Reader 2: Christopher Cooper-Hohn has given away nearly half a billion pounds this year to charities in Africa. This is more than five times the amount he kept for himself and his family.

Reader 1: Lord Sainsbury, head of the supermarket family, has to date given away more than a billion pounds to a wide variety of charitable concerns.

Reader 2: In the past year Sir Elton John gave away a quarter of all he had, nearly 25 million pounds, mostly to AIDS charities.

Leader: Each of these people believes that it’s a responsibility of the rich to be generous, to make a positive impact with the wealth that they’ve been able to accumulate through successful financial dealings, retail sales and music. In fact The Sunday Times recently claimed in its ‘Rich List’ [display a copy if possible] that the richest people in Britain have given away more on average during this past year, a time of plunging stock markets and financial gloom, than in any previous year for which they’ve collected information.

Of course it’s easy for them, isn’t it? They have the wealth to be generous. But many people can’t afford to give anything away. These generous rich people are to be admired but their example can’t be relevant to us, can it?

Remember Comic Relief 2009? Kilimanjaro, the England football squad and Stella McCartney tee shirts amongst many other highlights? In March this year when people were really feeling the pinch, when workers were being made redundant, belts were being tightened and there were even threats that pocket money would have to be reduced, what happened?

Comic Relief 2009 raised £57.8m, breaking all previous records by an enormous amount. That total was given largely by ordinary people like you and me who acted generously.

How do you act when you’ve got a bit more money than usual? It’s easy to be generous then, isn’t it? How do you act when money is a bit tight? Are you inclined to keep it a little closer to home? Some financial experts have predicted that, as the financial slump gets worse over the next year or so, one of the first victims will be charities. They argue that you and I will hold onto our money rather than be generous. We’ll look after number one first of all. I wonder whether this needs to be the case, or can we build on the Comic Relief example?

Response

Three major world faiths – Islam, Judaism and Christianity – share many teachings in common. One of these is that generosity is not a feeling, it’s a duty. They teach that a proportion of the money we have should be given away. It may be 1%, 5%, 10% or more but generosity is part of everyday life. It happens when we are rich, and it happens when we are poor.

The idea behind the teaching is that regular giving helps us to remember that our wealth is given to us with responsibilities attached. It encourages us to develop a generous frame of mind. If we have a lot of money then we can be generous in large amounts. But even if we have only a small amount we can still give some of that. Working with percentages is a simple way to organise giving to others. If one person decides to give away 5% and only has £1 then he or she simply puts 5p in a charity box. If they have £20 then they can give £1. The actions are both just as generous as each other. What matters is that everyone has given something so that others might benefit. Even the 5p pieces soon add up.

Meanwhile, think about the words of this prayer. Make it your own if you wish.

Dear God

I’m thankful for the money I have and the freedom to choose how I use itI like to see people acting in a generous wayMay I organise my money so I show generositySometimes in a small waySometimes in a large way

I know I’ll feel better for doing so

Amen

This e-bulletin issue was first published in May 2009

About the author: Brian Radcliffe

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