By Gill Blake, Legacy Officer, Christian Aid Scotland
One of the huge number of things that have changed during the past months has been an interest in the restorative powers of nature. My own small garden in the east of Edinburgh wouldn’t win any gardening prizes. But despite the regular affronts they faced by my children and a football, the sunflowers remained tall, the border weeded and pots well-watered. I felt inspired, too, by the better-tended gardens I pounded past while pursuing that other lockdown cliché – jogging.
When a local private golf club generously opened its gates to the public for exercise I was buoyed by the comforting wrap of the natural world in this enclosed Eden. I felt awed by the enormous parkland trees in their many shades of green. Their size, strength and solidity are reassuring. They have withstood innumerable turbulent times over hundreds of years. The current pandemic is just the latest in a long list. They will see it through, and more besides. I found enormous comfort in the perspective those trees give on our daily lives and troubles.
This sense of perspective is also one of the reasons why I love my job, which is raising funds for Christian Aid’s work with the world’s very poorest. My role is about showing people the incredible power of legacy giving: making space for a donation in your Will. Sometimes people hear the word ‘Will’ and are immediately put off. A Will means contemplating your own mortality. It sounds complicated, legal-ese-y and a bit boring. An effort.
But for many it is an incredibly empowering way to give. You don’t need to be wealthy. It’s a way for most us in this country to make a truly substantial difference. Leaving just 1% to a charity or cause which you feel close to will often make an impact far beyond what we could afford to donate in our lifetime. Leaving a gift in your Will is a great leveller, a way to ensure your beliefs live on. For the control freaks among us (guilty), it is a hugely satisfying way to extend our wishes and ensure they are carried out. Like the trees, it gives your values strength beyond any human lifespan. Again, perspective.
Those early weeks of coronavirus made many of us contemplate our mortality. We wondered about how best to protect loved ones after we are gone. Online Will writing shot through the roof. Surveys found that many more people had been prompted to get a Will for the first time or review their existing Will because of the pandemic.
This November, Will Aid will run just as it has done for over 30 years. The scheme, which started in Scotland, sees solicitors generously volunteering their time to write Wills. Instead of paying the usual fee for the Will, the client makes a voluntary donation to Will Aid. The suggested donation is £100 for a simple single Will, or £180 for a pair of mirror Wills. The scheme raises money for nine UK charities, including Christian Aid, who have played a critical role in combating the impact of coronavirus, in some of the world’s poorest countries where there is no NHS or furlough safety net.
My own need for the comfort of those trees has receded. But as their leaves start to fall I know that, for many, a sense of loss from this year’s challenges remains. It is especially difficult for those unable to come together to grieve. On 4 November at 5.30pm, Christian Aid will host an online service of reflection to remember and celebrate those we love who are no longer here. It is also a chance for those feeling a more general sense of loss to carve out time to acknowledge this and to reflect. The service will include a sermon from Dr Rowan Williams and space for personal reflection. You are warmly invited to join. Though our branches may be bare, we will weather this storm together.
To book an appointment with a local solicitor for November visit willaid.org.uk, or call Will Aid on 0300 0300 013. Will Aid supports ActionAid, British Red Cross, Christian Aid, NSPCC, Save The Children, Sightsavers, Age UK, SCIAF (Scotland) and Trocaire (Northern Ireland).