On Sunday, Katharine (comms manager) and I represented Save the Children Canada at the Patron’s Lunch. The largest-ever street party on The Mall, The Royal Family made philanthropy and patronage a centrepiece of The Queen’s 90th birthday festivities.
It’s nearly always the fundraisers who throw the party, but at the Patron’s Lunch, we were the guests. We were the invited, the ones who RSVP’d and were entertained, thanked and fed, along with 10,000 other charity workers from the 600 organisations The Queen gives her name to.
Amid jugs of Pimm’s, the carnival parade, and a Gruffalo dancing to Britpop, we mingled: ex-servicemen, councillors, trustees, charity CEOs, and fundraisers. Wills, Kate, Anne, Andrew, Edward, and Sophie.
Long may she rain, we were 10,000 ghosts in Royal Ponchos fluttering little union jacks. Off with cynicism’s head! This was a rare day and one to embrace – there was nowhere to go but deeper towards joy. Buckingham Palace’s rooftop snipers were like cake toppers. Just a happy couple.
Katharine had lined up some national media, which was going to give us valuable exposure in Canada. Then, CBC to CTV, the interviews were cancelled. Breaking news. A man had killed over 50 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando. Assault rifles and handguns.
Charities exist to do dark work, or bring light to a dark world. At Save the Children, our work is to stem the violence, persecution, and exploitation of children. But we mourn and rage at any violence committed against anyone.
On Sunday, there were two dramatic events: a Royal picnic on a scale unlikely to be repeated, and a massacre on a scale we desperately hope won’t be. As around the world, the reaction at the Patron’s Lunch was shock, but our impulse was also to celebrate on. We celebrated a remarkable woman’s 90th birthday, her service, our service, the charitable sector, our donors’ generosity, and the impact our 600 charities have had. It was not self-congratulatory. It was survival.
It was a complicated day for me: one minute I was FaceTiming my mother from the Mall so she could be part of it all, and in an instant, thinking how I could explain to my four-year-old why some people hate those who love. This cuts me to the core.
I’m angry. I’m so angry that on a day of two extremes, taking and hating won as the story. Not the other, about giving and loving.