Sunday, January 18, 2009

TV tears

British TV show Secret Millionaire takes some of the country's richest people and puts them to work, volunteering in some of the toughest places. The idea is that they get to meet some of the people working against the odds in their community and at the end of their stay decide who they will financially support.

It is a bit artificial - how often do mystery men appear with a camera crew for a week and take an interest in people doing unnoticed voluntary work? On the other hand, the people they meet are gut wrenching.

In the episode I saw, middle-aged property tycoon 'why travel by bus - it is such a waste of time' David Pearl spent some time around a hospital in Portsmouth.

One particularly memorable character he met was a lady volunteering to help patients who were having difficulty eating. It turned out that the lady had been in hospital and realised that some of the patients could not eat their food and the nurses did not have time to help. So she got special permission to help. When David later spent some time at home with the lady, it turned out that she was in permanent pain. He could not understand why someone would do that for others, particularly when they had serious illnesses themselves.

When given some money to go on holiday, the remarkable lady burst into tears and said 'I didn't do it for the money'. It was impossible not to cry.

Later, a small disabled lady who was the heart-and-soul of the Macmillan centre was given a some money for a honeymoon and had to be told not to give it away but spend it on herself.

Perhaps not surprisingly the volunteers know much more about life than the millionaires.