Today is the final day of our 2011 Christmas Appeal.
To date the amazing generosity of Independent readers has raised a total of £93,396 – an average of £51 for every reader who donated, not including bidders in our Christmas Auction, which raised £32,848.
That will not be the final figure. Last year an additional £9,000 trickled in during the weeks after the appeal ended. We trust that readers will be doing the same this year. The phone lines will remain open until the end of the month and postal and online donations will be accepted even after that.
But the appeal is about more than raising money, vital though that is for the three charities we are supporting this year – the Children's Society's runaways project, Rainbow Trust's care for children with life-threatening illness, and Save the Children which helps keep alive more than eight million children each year around the world.
The stories we have told each day over the past five weeks have been tales of remarkable people struggling to keep the human spirit alive under the most adverse of conditions. That is good for them as well as us. The individuals who have been the subjects of those stories have found affirmation in that telling. The world does care after all, they feel, our charities tell us. Their self-worth and self-esteem has been boosted enormously.
And the response of readers, who have contacted the charities directly as well as leaving comments on our website, has revealed something of the impact that those stories have had on you. It has been a response not just of generosity, but of a compassion which arises, the charities report, from empathy rather than pity.
The appeal is a time when those who are the more fortunate among us can count our blessings. The news of the sudden serious illness of a child – let alone the lottery of fate which condemns a child who happens to be born in Somalia rather than Somerset – brings home the frailty of our human existence.
And the experiences on the streets of teenagers who desert the family home to run away reveal just how few are the steps between the comfortable life we daily take for granted and a life teetering vulnerably on the edge.
There is something else these stories repeatedly tell us. It is how the actions of a single individual can make a huge difference in our world. Day after day we have heard of lives transformed by the extraordinary kindness of strangers. In a season when – just a week on – new year's resolutions still seem purposeful, that is a lesson worth holding on to.
We can make a difference, each one of us. Justin Forsyth, the head of Save the Children, captured that when he told us: "I know it sounds a bit Obama-like but it really does feel that we could be the generation that makes sure very few children die of preventable illnesses and that all children can go to school."
It is not too late for us all to make some small contribution. It is not too late to make yours.
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