Every year hundreds and thousands of us go through our closets and belongings and set aside the things we no longer want, need or use. I know that I, myself, do this at least twice a year for myself and for my kids. It’s actually liberating to get rid of things that no longer serve a purpose. A cluttered home, mind or life serves us no good.
Typically what I do is go through our closets and drawers and make two piles. One pile is destined for trash; the other is destined as a charitable donation. It’s the second pile that makes it from our closets to the trunk space of my car and ultimately to Saint Vincent D’Paul’s or Goodwill or another comparable charitable organization. Lately the bulk of my donations have consisted of clothing that I no longer see myself wearing (that dress that I’ve had forever but have only worn out twice) or no longer fit my kids…mainly baby clothes. I am conscious that there are people out there that are going through hardships and can’t afford clothing or things for themselves or their children. I am also conscious that there is a certain manner in which a person should seek out which items should be donated and those which should just be chucked.
A few years ago my church community and I volunteered to feed the homeless. I drove from my suburban apartment to an urban city to prepare sandwiches and breakfast foods and sanitary packs that we then drove to the inner city to hand out to the homeless. Let me tell you, this is one of the most beautiful experiences you could ever savor in your soul. The preparing of the food, conversation and good company and then the handing of the foods fills you up with so much empathy and compassion for those individuals that are there to receive those goods. I did this a few times and each time I took my daughter so that she could experience helping those who are seeking help. On one occasion I remember it being very cold outside. We had transported from our second location to our third and were located on a side walk of a main road. Our organization had tables lined up. One table had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, ham and cheese sandwiches, bread and pastries. Another table had bottled water, coffee, juices and reading material. And then the table further down to the right beside a street pole had the hygiene packages; toothbrush, deodorant, a pair of clean underwear and socks and donated clothing.
I remember just standing there by the table as these men walked over to look through the goods. One found a shirt, another a sweater, but I remember the look on one man’s face as he went through some of the items. There was a nice Nike jacket set out, a nice name brand t-shirt, so what was the problem? The items were embarrassingly stained. When I saw the reaction to the items I knew they had to be removed and tossed in the trash. However to my dismay I realized that there were some people that thought it was okay to donate such items. You see, some people think that if you are needy, that if someone is needy that they will take just about anything but I beg to differ.
It takes a lot for a person to go to a street corner and ask for some food, something warm to drink and find some clothing. I know that for some people they don’t mind but in my experience I have seen that it takes a lot for a person to humble themselves and seek the help that they may need. For many it’s the fact that they have had so much pride, for others it’s knowing that other’s are seeing them as “a needy person, a person that is unfortunate, a person that is down and out”.
I’ll share my own experience. I don’t like thrift stores, never have. And I have to say that what other people think or say of me has dominated the vast majority of my life. I’d like to say that it no longer does but the truth in the matter is that is not the truth. When I had my daughter as a young mom I did not like taking hand me downs. I thought it devalued the person it was given to. Fast forward to having my son and I will gladly accept gently worn or used things so long as it is in good condition and comes from someone I know. That is me. My sister enjoys shopping at thrift stores, I do not.
When I came to expect my son I reached out in my community to find resources that would help me save money. I mean face it life is expensive and I already have so many expenses any dollar I can save is greatly appreciated. I reached out to two local organizations. Both offered friendly counseling and support and help in the attainment of material goods for my baby. I remember the first place telling me “don’t worry about a thing we will provide a layette for your baby, you will be all set”.
I was going through a very challenging time in my life during this time and so I needed all the emotional, spiritual and mental support that I could get.
I remember picking up the layette about two weeks before my son was born and to my dismay the clothing provided in the layette were not only gently used but they were very used, stains, fabric pilling and all. This was not the time for me to receive such a “gift” because it devalued my son and I. Before you judge me, you need to understand that I was at one of the lowest points of my life and to receive things that were stained and very very used for my brand new baby left an impression on my heart and mind that this was how people viewed me, as someone who was “down and out, needy, unfortunate” and that I was lucky to be getting anything for my baby.
The second resource center was a pro-life office run by the Catholic church. This organization provided me with not only the emotional support I needed but also with an abundance of material goods for my son. All the things that were provided were brand new, with tags and in perfect condition. I know that it was imperative for me to receive new items and I remember my friendly counselor at the center telling me that they could not give out used clothing. They did have an array of used and donated materials but for the layette they provided that it all had to be new.
So why am I sharing this? I am sharing it because it makes a difference to be conscientious when selecting what items to donate and what items to toss. You never know the impact it can have on an individual’s psychological state. You never know the impression it will leave behind or how they will view themselves because of it. For this reason it is imperative that we look over the goods twice.
I remember hearing a lecturer in which a doctorate graduate stated that when you are going to donate something you should donate the best, something that you yourself would want. Don’t go into the back of the cupboard and donate a can of soup just because it’s too salty and someone else can use it, rather donate the hearty meal kit that you, yourself would prepare for yourself. The same applies for clothing, books, toys, etc. If you wouldn’t be pleased to receive it why give it? Only give what you would hand if your hands into the other person’s hands with pride.