Spare a thought, spare a shoebox.


Donor fatigue… I’m not sure if it’s a real condition but I’m sure many people have suffered from it at one time or another.

It’s that feeling you get when you stop at a red traffic light and you see a “DVD salesman” approaching your car. It’s that awkward moment when you drive off without tipping the car guard after he thanks you. It’s what you get when you’re sitting at a restaurant and that lady selling roses makes her way to your table.

It seems that everyday we are asked to give in so many different ways. Most of us are decent people so we do our best but we’re only human. One can only do so much, right?

That certainly is one side of the coin; a side I understand well and have given much thought to. None the less, I thought I would share some of my personal sentiment with you with regards to giving because I’m a rebel like that. If anything, see it as more of an encouragement of sorts than a request to change your opinion should it differ from mine.

You see when I get to that red traffic light, I am a slave to the plea bargain put before me. I simply reach for my coin slot, open the window and hand over the moolah. This happens virtually every time I have enough time to do so. And although there is a chance this person might go spend the goods on booze or drugs instead of food and other necessities, I don’t care.

Before you heap praise OR scorn on me, you should know that it has less to do with being a good person and more to do with my obsessive compulsive disorder. I wouldn’t say I’m a whack job but the voices are strong in this one.

For me, I think of all the times I’ve spent money on a good night out. Sometimes I get on a roll and I think I have more money than God has sheep, ordering shooters by the bucket load (some can cost as much as R40) yet I can’t give R5 to the guy on the side of the street? From here on, my mind becomes a war zone in a matter of milliseconds! I could blog about this war zone for days on end.

But don’t think I give out of guilt. Perspective and empathy are the weapons my mind uses to produce conviction. It’s part and parcel of being Mark Sham the over-thinker.

The difference between man and the rest of creation is that if we want, we CAN look at the bigger picture. We are able to act out of kindness and compassion for no real reason at all even. We don’t always have to act on pure instinct which often times will tell us to roll up the window and pretend there is zero existence outside our car.

In my opinion, it is not our divine right to live a good life. We may work hard but the good things we have are a blessing and shouldn’t be taken for granted. We certainly shouldn’t feel guilty for what we have but we should remember what it’s like not to have and how quickly it can be taken away from us. That’s perspective.

I also believe that sometimes we should be the bigger person and have compassion for those who have less than us regardless of whether they deserve to be in that situation or not. That’s empathy.

I’m not saying you’re wrong if you don’t give every time. For a LONG time, I’ve thought about why people don’t do more in general and I’ve come to realize it’s not because they’re all bad people, they just don’t always practice perspective and empathy; a certain cure for donor fatigue.

Another reason people don’t do more is because they don’t know where to start. They have the right intentions but lack a springboard from which to jump from.

Last year, I found a cause that really pulled on my heart’s strings called Santa Shoebox and I want to use the Mark’s Microphone platform to encourage you to get involved. You could argue that the beggar on the side of the road deserves his lot but you can’t argue that underprivileged children are the ones affected most by bad luck and other people’s bad choices.

Kidz2Kidz’s Santa Shoebox Project  is an inspiring community initiative that co-ordinates the donation, collection and distribution of personalized Christmas gifts to underprivileged children; while at the same time helping parents teach their own children about the joys of giving.

Participating is a profoundly valuable and personal experience as the donor knows the name, age and gender of the child that he/she chooses to donate to and the name of the organization that cares for the child.

Last year, my child’s name was Johannes and he was nine years old. I may not have been able to put a roof over his head but come Christmas, he experienced one of the greatest joys on earth; a joy all children should experience; a joy which shaped my childhood for the better and will hopefully shape his in the same way.

If this blog post has offered you perspective and empathy for even a brief moment then I encourage you visit the Santa Shoebox website for more information about how to “pledge a box” to an underprivileged child. You can also visit their Facebook page or Twitter account to keep in touch.

We would also like to keep in touch so please “like” us on Facebook or “follow” us on Twitter.

About the author: Mark Sham

Mark Sham

NOT the boy next door. Entrepreneur at heart with a marketing background and a love for social media. Owner of Vivid Marketing!


  1. Lee Nascimento says:

    Love your work!

  2. Sandy says:

    oh sparky…

    great post! I give when I can, to whom I think needs it and could use it better than I would.

    just the other day I gave my gloves to the robot begger/homeless person, I have a spare pair, he can use these now, I’m in my car.

    keep well sham

  3. Natasha August says:

    What an extremely inspiring piece. Even for the “sucker” like me that has to give to any and all car guard(whether or not he even knows which car to look after), buggar(that can barely stand) or great initiatives like Santa Shoe box, I want to give more. More mind sets like yours could change the world.

  4. Tanya Vanessa Kieck says:

    Yay for you! Yay for your opinions! Yay for giving!!!!!
    I’m sometimes looked at differently or strangely as I truly do try and be a better person everyday to those who don’t have what I do. Even if they use the R2 to buy glue for example. Everyone deserves a bit of happiness I believe!
    I’m not rich, or wealthy, but I do have a life others dream of!

    Santa’s Shoebox is one initiative which truly gives to those who need love, to those who weren’t given the choice to be where they are, to the children who are just as precious as every single child out there on christmas morning!!!!!

    I will be taking part again this year, even if it is just one or two shoes boxes.
    And hell, if everyone could think the way we do Mark, the world would be a better place. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!!!!!! xx

  5. Deanne says:

    Great article and really enjoyed the read Fran!

  6. Lovely stuff. Man after my own heart.

  7. really makes you think,

  8. Tami Bass says:

    Words too true, fantastic job Mark and this piece is written with such honest flare, thank you.

    I thought I would share my personal experience and thoughts :

    Firstly I wish for all to be free of any unnecessary guilt. Instead of allowing yourself to be consumed by these guilty feelings which most justify and convert into anger towards those in need, take control of your emotions on a lighter note through opening your mind and understanding this person’s position from their point of view not your’s. Most of the time they are in this terrible position due to circumstances out of their control and are probably shamed by this already, yet they have no alternative and are doing the best they can for sheer survival. This is a position I wish upon no soul but it is a sad reality no matter how the generalized population feel about how good or bad these people may be. I feel that no one has the right to make judgment on who is or is not worthy of their spare change.

    Personally it gives me such joy to hand over what ever I may have that could help the one in need, whether it be a bottle water or spare note lying in my console. I watched a young boy at the robot standing bare foot in the rain wearing nothing but a T-shirt and hoping for someone to give him some food. My heart was filled with hurt to think of his day to day life but even more so to watch how every person simply ignored him as if he where not real. So I reached to the back seat of my car for a spare jacket and handed it to him through the window, I will never forget the look in his little face, a look filled with mixed emotion and absolute disbelief. I do not profess to be some kind of saint, just simply someone that hopes my outlook of compassion and empathy towards the less privileged will help others to look at these situations in a new light.

    Some say I give too much but I feel there is no such thing. Yes there are those that take advantage and their perception of kindness is that it is a form of weakness, but this is a lesson for them to work out and not me. I give from the bottom of my heart, as it gives back to me the joy and pure love worth more to me then the spare change I have parted with could ever offer. Giving is in turn showing a true appreciation for life and recognizing all your many blessings by sharing them with all you can.

    There are many of you who may not be in the position to give and this is most certainly okay, but next time you are in that awkward position and being asked to give, instead of doing more damage to an already hurt soul through ignoring their existence, turn and give an understanding smile showing that you do not have anything to give but that you do understand their position and would give if you could. This will do more help allowing them to feel like a person recognized by another and not leaving them numb to life by having their existence omitted by a shrug of your shoulder and careless ignorance toward their humanity.

    We are ALL in this together, so is it truly so much to ask that we each do our bit to help one another on our journey forward.

    One Love <3 and keep up the fabulous work

  9. Shannelle says:

    well done Marki!

  10. Clarrisa says:

    Mr Shambles, absolutely agree with this article and i will do as much as i can possibly to help where i can.
    There’s nothing more heartbreaking then seeing little kids suffer.

  11. Dom Fortune says:

    This is a really good cause and I’d love to be part of something that helps children, especially over christmas. Nice post Mark and good on you for help, and getting more people involved.

Leave a comment

Comment form

All fields marked (*) are required