Opinion: Bedford’s generosity is more than just financial

Helping hands

This month, Bedford was crowned the second most generous town in the UK by the donation platform JustGiving.

Read: JustGiving names Bedford as UK’s second most generous town

Of course, this is no surprise to most people who live here, particularly as just nine years ago we topped that chart.

Financial generosity is a tangible thing that can be measured, but the generosity of time, knowledge and empathy is not so easily calculated.

In the words of our most famous former resident, John Bunyan: “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”

It’s these qualities that I think Bedford has in spades.

It is why the Bedford Kindness group grew at such a rapid rate during the pandemic, it is why community WhatsApp groups are full of offers to lend a hand or lend a slow cooker, it’s why the Prebend Centre was gifted a new mobility step less than an hour after they’d asked for one in the We Are Bedford Facebook group.

It’s because the vast majority of people are inherently nice and would go the extra mile to help someone out. So many things wouldn’t happen in Bedford if it wasn’t for people putting others before themselves.

The people who generously give up their Saturday mornings every single week to ensure hundreds of runners can take part in Parkruns throughout the Borough.

The volunteers manning turnstiles and stewarding at Bedford Town Football Club.

The Bedford Repair Cafe menders and fixers, all sharing their time and expertise.

Volunteers for The Samaritans, Bedford Foodbank and charities helping families during these tough times.

It’s why we’re top of the league among towns taking part in FiverFest – part Helen Patterson’s tireless and unpaid efforts to put B-town on the map and part businesses willing to take part.

All of these elements combine to build pride in our town.

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Rachel Dunford is a Bedfordian who works with organisations to capture and measure the impact of projects for children and young people.

“Making a difference doesn’t always have to mean donating cash,” she said.

“Money can absolutely change people’s lives, but doesn’t it mean even more when you give your time, your thought, your energy, or your skills to your neighbour or to a stranger?

“And it might not be as easy to add up, as those charitable donations might be, but it is possible to measure it…by finding out how it made someone feel, or how it gave somebody hope, or how it eased their stress or raised their spirits. It’s about seeing how you solved their problem, how you lightened their load, or simply how you made them smile.”

It’s one of the reasons why, when someone shares a random act of kindness on We Are Bedford, it makes me sad when the inevitable “restores my faith in humanity” replies come in.

The anger and vitriol on social media is skewing our view of society. In my experience, the overriding majority of Bedfordians would do their best to help out and whether it’s by donating their money or time, that’s what makes me proud to live here.

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