You would think that a woman wearing a bright pink jacket, and equally bright pink tabbard and holding a bright pink bucket would be impossible to miss... yet standing on a busy street corner in Glasgow between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. this morning I was, it seems, largely invisible.
Invisible, in so far as some people studiously looked the other way, lest making eye contact might compel them to dig in their pocket for some loose change. Invisible in that some people were so busy looking at their phones they didn't even see me standing there and had to swerve at the last minute to avoid me when I steadfastly didn't move.
Four of us collected for an hour, and between us raised nearly £160. Other volunteers will cover another four hours of collecting, so hopefully the final figure will be around the £1000 mark. Which is not bad, I guess, for a day's 'work'.
The last time I remember doing a bucket collection was a dark December evening in the early 1990s, standing at the exit door of ToysRUs in Warringon, dressed as 'Santa's elf' and raising as much, if not more, more on my own than the four of us did this morning. That gave me pause for thought - what was different about the two occasions, and what, more generally, has changed in those years?
Back then, no mobile phones, a lot of people still used cash for large purchases and in the run up to Christmas collecting for a children's charity is a sure fire success. Young woman in red leggings and tunic top wearing a santa hat wouldn't do any harm either.
Nowadays a lot of people don't carry cash, and most are busy with phones as they hurtle out of stations and down the street. Middle aged woman in luminous pink attire is not so noticeable after all! And it's Thurdsay, in August... just another bucket collection for another charity. (And, if I am honest, I pass several such every week going about my daily life).
Still, there were people who stopped to give, a few who spoke or who had that tell-tale tear in the eye that spoke for them. Mostly it was middle-aged men, perhaps their mothers, partners or even daughters had direct experience of the disease... for that matter, maybe they did themselves. One man told me his mother had died of breast cancer. A younger man apologised that 'it was only a few wee coins'. One woman muttered something which signalled all - she was part of this club no-one wants to be in.
It would have been a lot less effort to send a donation to the charity. To have done so would have been to have missed out on the hints and glimpses of a world where charity collectors are so commonplace as to be invisible. A world where people avoid eye-contact or are simply so engrossed in technology that they risk walking into lampposts (or charity collectors). A world where, in the midst of all the hustle and bustle, are moments of generosity and humanity. A world where a grieving man can honour the memory of his mother. A world where a young man can make a difference with his few small coins (remember the widow's mite?). A world where middle-aged women in ridiculously bright clothes can still play their small part in supporting a cause close to their heart by giving up an hour of their time.
Overall, I'm glad to have taken part in this. I learned a lot. I smiled at strangers a lot (maybe that was unnerving?!). I enjoyed the crisp autumn morning - and appreciated the chance to warm up afterwards! A good morning.