Off Duty: Trying my hand as a marathon fundraiser

Dr Luise Parsons took to the streets in aid of The Children's Society.

It was a hard day selling soup at the London Marathon. I earned £20 - not quite the fee for a one-hour shift out-of-hours - but I guess that is not the point.

My house is at about mile 16 on the route, where spectators were milling, watching the constant flow of runners. I cooked up soup and rolls, set up a stall in my garden and invited donations in exchange for the food.

We hung up banners and balloons and donned our purple T-shirts. I was ambivalent to the point of clinical anxiety about asking people for money - even for a worthwhile charity such as the Children's Society, which focuses on four groups: children at risk on the street; children in trouble with the law; disabled children; and young refugees.

Fortunately, donning a branded T-shirt for a good cause works just as well as the famous white coat to distance us from our patients, and more.

The response was quantitatively disappointing, and the generosity of the few amazing.

The first donation came from a couple asking directions to a cafe - they gave £3 for two large mugs of tea. I was so grateful that I threw in my last chocolate biscuits for free.

A chap paid £2 to use my loo, and one very kind woman gave £10 for a cup of soup and a roll - even for homemade organic, that's generous.

Most of the soup and bread was given away to police and St John's Ambulance Brigade workers when they were looking cold and bored.

The less generous

Three women sat solidly outside my house in the rain, neither cheering nor moving. They did not produce any flasks or sandwiches, accepted all the soup and bread and crisps I gave them, and offered not a penny to the Children's Society.

Then an eight year-old girl, in a tailored tweed coat with a velvet collar, came with 5p and asked if it was enough for some soup? Of course, we said, how much soup? How much bread? You poor little darling.

When I raised my eyes from the soup ladle, I saw her returning the mountain of food to her mother and grandmother - patients of mine who I had always suspected of taking what they could, and giving little.

Am I too cynical to be a fundraiser? This is meant to be a spiritual journey - perhaps it will help me to spot the angels.

We'll certainly do it again. Who knows - other stalls might join in, too. And, maybe I will have better luck next time.

- Dr Parsons, a GP in east London, is taking part in a pilgrimage this month to fundraise for the Children's Society

- www.childrenssociety.org.uk.

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