A Question of Charity
She looks askance at the amount. 'Shall I make it our to charity or will you?' she says.
I don't reply.
I suppose it looks like I am awash with money. I have given a 45 minute talk and then answered questions. At the end of the talk I have offered my books for sale if anyone should be interested. The books I've brought with me (bought, as I explained to my audience, from my publisher) I am selling at little more than I paid for them. In fact, there is a friendly little squabble about who gets the last one. My total profit is a modest £3.50 and my customers go away happy knowing they have paid a lower price for my new book than they'll find anywhere else.
This talk, which is illustrated with pictures, took me weeks to prepare. It was based on research that took me years to do. This afternoon I spent three hours going over the talk and refining it because I hadn't given it for a while and felt I needed to revise it. I was invited to give the talk a year ago and in response I set out my terms and conditions which included my fee, travelling expenses and opportunity to sell books.
So why am I being asked to give this money I've earned to charity? And why am I feeling an uncharitable wretch for ignoring that question and insisting that the secretary makes the cheque out to me?
A few days later I have a conversation with my brother. He is a consultant microbiologist at a hospital. He is also giving a talk - an after dinner talk for 20 minutes to a similar number of people as me. I do not think that his talk is any more interesting, worthy or entertaining than mine. My brother's talk is in Prague. They pay for his flight over, his night in a hotel and £150 for giving the talk. There is no question about him giving the money to charity. So why the difference? And if, say, the secretary of the group I gave my talk to was applying for legal representation, or having a broken window mended would she also ask that lawyer or joiner if she should pay their fee to charity?