The Charity of Madeleine Saunier

This morning’s ‘Brian reads…’ episode was of Madeleine Saunier in the short story “The Wolf That Came In The Night” (as found in Volume 9 of Arthur Mee’s Children’s Encyclopedia).

But who was this Madeliene Saunier? Well, she was born in 1802 in a commune in eastern France and from childhood was of a charitable nature as the following account [found here] reveals:

This girl had, even when a child, sent out to watch cattle in the fields, been in the habit of sharing the meals she carried out with her with the poor, only begging them to keep the secret. The privations she imposed on herself had a serious effect on her health and growth; but still, when she grew up, her whole soul was fixed on charity; and though she had to work for her own support, she still contrived to effect marvels for others.

Why did she share meals secretly, I wonder? Would those in charge of the peasants object, or would she simply attract the attention of others who might take advantage of her and take more than she could sustain? In our day it seems that more people with plenty are keen to keep the bulk of their wealth to themselves, and perhaps only make charitable motions when it serves some personal objective, or to bolster ones image.

I find myself with a not so charitable nature, I must confess. During my childhood I took part in some charity events, such as a handful of Bikeathons, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but truthfully only on account of the ride; I never raised that much and the trying to get sponsors, and collecting the money for these rides was always a chore. Before I cycled to Scotland for the first time I considered doing that “for charity”, but I realised the ride was a personal endeavour (which I was going to do regardless) and I had no personal ties to, or felt drawn towards, any particular charity. These days I object (or rather, I politely decline) to being approached for donations primarily on the grounds of my low earnings and that, when I see people shaking their charity buckets (I believe they’re not technically allowed to do this) I think they could have their efforts done and dusted in one simple and a relatively negligible (to a wealthy giver) transaction; why bother approaching every supermarket shopper when one millionaire or billionaire could fill the bucket at the click of a button? I suppose an answer to this is that such wealthy people either don’t shop in supermarkets (in that manner at least), hide behind the walls of their mansions, and avoid the bulk of requests for handouts… that is unless, of course, some request is put forward in a “this is what the act could do for you” manner. Perhaps also it gets the masses interested in whatever scheme money is being raised for; it opens a dialogue and could be likened to a demonstration or form of protest.

I was thinking then of Bill Gates; I’ve heard his name mentioned a lot through all of our present “crisis”, and then I thought of the quote:

“With wealth comes great responsibility.”

It just so turns out that, according to Google, it was Bill Gates who said that.

I can appreciate that, who you give handouts to, and what you handout, and how you hand it out, are perhaps important considerations. The drunk or drug-addicted person who is asking for loose change may well benefit from money “to buy food”, but will they spend it accordingly? Buying them a sandwich may well serve them better. On a larger scale, simply throwing fish at a starving country may feed them for a day, but provide them with the equipment and skills with which to fish, and you could well (it is said) feed them for a lifetime. Send them the money with which to buy the equipment and pay for the training and you’ll likely see someone profiteering off the sale of rods and provision of said training. As an even darker aspect, we can also wonder if those that are profiteering had a hand in the original plight.

Again, in our present ‘crisis’, we can look towards those that are profiteering from this crisis; from multi-billion-dollar drug companies, multi-million-dollar government contracts handed out almost willy-nilly because “the crisis calls for swift action and a need to circumvent the usual chains of scrutineering,” the supermarkets and Amazons that can stay open while the smaller independent shops and services aren’t allowed, and the banks that handle all the furlough money (or as Neil Oliver calls it: Monopoly money), and digital currency transactions; because, don’t forget, notes and coins can carry the virus.

Curiously, I heard explained a link between the expansion of chemical industries during World War II (because chemicals were required in vast quantities to ‘fuel’ the war effort) and how those industries diverted the use of such chemicals into farming, food production, foods, and products after the war (as is still the case today). Those industries weren’t interested in relinquishing the systems they had built up, often using government-provided funding (or other benefits). One of those key chemicals, I have read, is ethyl alcohol.

“Ethyl Alcohol is a clear, colorless liquid with a wine-like odor. It is used in alcoholic beverages, as a solvent, and in making other chemicals.” – Google

Where can we easily find Ethyl Alcohol today? Hand sanitizer, whose production sky-rocketed in 2020.

Hand sanitizer often has a form of alcohol, such as ethyl alcohol, as an active ingredient and works as an antiseptic. Other ingredients could include water, fragrance, and glycerin. Other non-alcohol based hand sanitizers contain an antibiotic compound called triclosan or triclocarban. [Source]

Glycerin, having applications in the food industry, medical industry, and being found in anti-freeze and e-cigarettes, also has its links with World War II chemical production:

[Glycerin the commercial name of glycerol], is used to produce nitroglycerin, which is an essential ingredient of various explosives such as dynamite, gelignite, and propellants like cordite. Reliance on soap-making to supply co-product glycerol made it difficult to increase production to meet wartime demand. Hence, synthetic glycerol processes were national defense priorities in the days leading up to World War II. – Wikipedia

More about these industries can be found in the lengthy book Du Pont Dynasty by Gerard Colby which I read back in 2017 as part of Banned Books Week.

Returning now (after that slight detour) to the story of Madeleine Saunier, I wonder if her acts of charity could have been seen as anti-establishment, an establishment which benefits from keeping the poor people poor and in want and need of their support. Our own present day predicament (and our governments) likewise puts us in a similar state, such as a reliance on handouts and furlough money, and the medical industry ever more puts people in a state (or in a belief) that they need medicating or vaccinating. According to Ted Kaczynski (aka The Unabomber) whose Manifesto I have been reading and will be uploading over the coming weeks as more ‘Brian reads…’ episodes, this is largely down to Leftist mentality. I’m not sure that statement in itself is helpful, but it makes me wonder how this way of thinking comes about. The answer is, it is bred into us (for we are all subjected to it in one degree or another) by the very system that benefits from it, and we are all (should we ever consider it) reluctant to give up place in this system, or not play along with it.

The story of Madeleine continues…

In the course of a cold winter, Madeleine was nursing a dying woman named Mancel, who lived on the hillside, in a hovel more like a wild beast’s den than the home of a human creature. Towards the end of a long night, Madeleine had lighted a few green sticks to endeavour to lessen the intense cold, when the miserable door, which was only closed by a stone on the floor, was pushed aside, and through the smoke, against the snow, the dark outline of a wolf was seen, ready to leap into the room. All Madeleine could do was to spring to the door, and hold it fast, pulling up everything she could to keep it shut, as the beast bounded against it, while she shouted and called in all the tones she could assume, in hopes that the wolf would fancy the garrison more numerous. Whether he were thus deceived or not, he was hungry enough to besiege her till her strength was nearly exhausted, and then took himself off at daylight.

The wolf at the door can be seen as symbolic of the establishment (although perhaps if the the story is historic and factual, this symbolism was not intentional) that seeks to stamp out our social nature and while not appearing to stamp out Charity itself, actually causes a reliance on it because it takes away the individual’s means of supporting his or herself, or keeping his or herself safe.

Many people heard of Captain Moore doing his 10-day garden walk, complete with walking-frame, in the run-up to his 100th birthday in the charitable effort to raise £1,000 for the NHS during the start of the Pandemic here in the UK. Touching the hearts of many people as his endeavour made the rounds on the news and social media, he far exceeded all expectations and topped £30,000,000. It’s quite a moving tale.

Perhaps £1,000 would have been a nice gesture for individual NHS workers who had been put under greater personal demand of late, and a nice way to say thanks. I can appreciate that. What I can’t appreciate is that the NHS itself needed £1,000, or that NHS staff need any monetary handouts; they’re paid for their time, and if they’re putting in extra hours due to unprecedented demand, then they should be paid accordingly for that too. (Some have questioned if there has been unprecedented demand, or if this was self-inflicted due to year on year budget shortages).

Captain Moore was made an example of, in one form or another, although I do find something odd about someone, faced with Lockdown, repeatedly strolling up and down their garden for days on end; but he did it for charity, so that’s okay. He was knighted for his efforts; outwardly this was for his charitableness, but inwardly (because I’m thinking this is what knighting and damehooding is really about) for supporting the establishment. Michael Ball (OBE of course) sang a rendition of the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone” which made it to number one in the UK music charts with all proceeds going to NHS Charities Together (the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge becoming joint patrons of the organisation in December). This song has a somewhat ironic title given that many people have to indeed walk alone, especially while out shopping (this being part of our “Social Distancing” guidelines); there’s certainly no walking together with people not from your household. Having said that, I’m not familiar with the song; I haven’t knowingly heard the 1945 original or the 2020 rendition.

In December, Moore and his family took a holiday to Barbados after British Airways paid for his flight. A nice sentiment I suppose, and we’ll gloss over the point that the rest of us were either in Lockdown, asked not to travel unless strictly necessary, and certainly not taking holidays abroad. That being said, my late grandparents used to always enjoy holidays abroad to warmer climes during our winters. They would always be back once the coldest weather was out of the way, a practice which served them well for many years until they were no longer able to fly. Sadly, Sir Captain Moore’s holiday to the warmer Barbados saw him back in the UK in the thick of winter and he promptly caught pneumonia… which, given his age, was to be the last of him. Tested then for Covid-19, this proved positive. There’s some sad irony here, but his story will likely live on like that of Madeleine Saunier who must have touched hearts in a similar manner.

A few hours after, the sick woman [Madeleine had cared for] died, but Madeleine could not bear to leave the poor corpse to the mercy of the wolf, and going to the nearest cottage implored permission to place it there till the burial could take place. Then again, over the snow into the wolf-haunted solitude, back she went; she took the body on her shoulders, and, bending under her burthen, she safely brought it to the cottage, where she fell on her knees, and thanked God for her safety. The next day, the wolf’s footsteps on the snow showed that he had spent the night in prowling round the hut, and that its frail defence had not excluded him from entering it.

… Madeleine … received a testimony of respect from good Queen Amélie, before the Monthyon prize was decreed to her.

The endowed Montyon Prize prizes, endowed by the French benefactor Baron de Montyon, were as follows:

  • Making an industrial process less unhealthy
  • Perfecting of any technical improvement in a mechanical process
  • Book which during the year rendered the greatest service to humanity
  • The “prix de vertu” for the most courageous act on the part of a poor Frenchman

 

2 comments

    • Yes, I set myself a challenge at the end of January to post more (if not every day) in February… as I felt I’d gotten too quiet here lately.

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