October 23, 2006

White Elephants

My parish just finished its twice a year garage sale. Well, it's not in the Rectory garage, it's actually in the Parish Hall. If the parish made $30 at this sale I'd be surprised. I don't know why they bother. It's really just an excuse for the people of the parish to unload their old junk on someone else. In this case, the church. Then it becomes the church's responsibility to either sell it, give it away, or junk it.

Yes, there are no doubt parishioners who think that its a good thing if someone, in this case, the church, can make a few bucks. Beats having to put that extra fiver in the basket this Sunday doesn't it?

Who are they kidding?

I think we all have people in our lives who are pathologically afraid to throw ANYTHING out. I can think of three in my life without thinking very hard. These are the folks that will give you already opened bottles of lotion as a house warming gift (I'm not make this up. I have a neighbor that did just this AND, they were free sample bottles too!). Better that YOU have the cosmic shazam fall down on YOU for being the one to contribute to the local landfill then THEY.

In my life, this obsession or mania knows no age. The elderly are usually blamed for it. "They grew up in the Depression when no one threw anything away." Baloney. If that's the case, then why does my 20 year old co-worker keep giving me worm-eaten, rotten, apples every Fall from her parent's orchard. She doesn't like them, but, hey, maybe I can do SOMETHING with them. Do I look like Snow White? Should I be worried?

The argument is: "Well, they MEAN well" Do they? Always? Wouldn't you feel insulted if someone gives you some perfume that they decided they did not like and says: "I think it smells like old gasoline, but you would probably like it" or "The sweater has been washed so much that the color looks like cat vomit, but you don't care about that kind of thing so you take it" or "Those jeans have holes in them but as long as you don't wear them in the winter you should be o.k."

Why is it considered acceptable to give the homeless and the downtrodden junky, ugly, crap that you never wanted, are tired of, or is so overused it looks awful? Is it really better then nothing? Can we do better? Should we? WWJD?

Here's a simple rule of thumb. If you are donating something that YOU would not personally take home, even if it's free, DON'T DONATE IT. Throw it away. I used to volunteer at the Free Store and we junked a lot of stuff. You don't even want me to tell you what some of the clothes we threw out looked like. It made me cry, to see the kinds of crap that people thought were acceptable for the poor to have.

There were moments of joy too. The times when someone drove up with a car full of brand new clothes for the Free Store and donated them. Think about what you are giving away and why? What kind of quality is it? What are you saying to the person you are giving it to? I value you, or this is good enough? This is as much as you deserve or I can't do enough for you?

Guess, I blew my resolution not to be negative in a quick hurry, eh?

Seriously, the Holidays are around the corner. That, and the change of seasons usually prompt people to start going through their things looking for items to give away. Giving is a noble thing. It's a beautiful thing. But, assess the quality of what you are giving away for free before you do it. Think about the recipient-known or unknown. What are you saying to them?

6 Comments:

Blogger Ray from MN said...

That's a great message, Cathy.

I don't have much experience with handling donated things, but my one experience was years ago after a big earthquake in Armenia in December or so when people needed warm clothes right now.

Minnesotans really poured out their hearts on this on and I volunteered for a day, packing the items for shipment.

Whoever was in charge really knew what they were doing. The word had come down from the Soviet Union that most shipments would be refused because they were too much trouble to sort and repackage for shipment to the disaster area. But they had had experience with shipments from Minnesota before and said they would accept ours.

That's because we sorted and packed by Men, Women, Children M&F, sweaters, outer coats, shoes (tied together), socks, gloves (tied together), hats, etc. and clearly marked the boxes as to what was in them. Non winter items were not packed.

Yes, we did get really dirty items for contributions and were told not even to touch them as 90% of the contributions were good to great in condition. Some, I would have loved to take myself.

I did take a bunch of things once from my Mom's house when we sold it down to the Goodwill. When I walked in the back door, I saw a huge room almost entirely full of clothes and fabrics, still in boxes. I could tell almost immediately that there was no market for that much clothing in that city and that 90% of it would probably be sold to cloth recyclers for rags, paper pulp or whatever.

October 24, 2006 8:26 AM  
Blogger Angela Messenger said...

Cosmic shazam...LMAO!

But seriously - good post!

October 25, 2006 1:10 AM  
Blogger Georgette said...

Very true, Cathy!

I feel blessed living here in India where there are SOoooo many people who LOVE to have what I give away. It makes me feel good to know that the things that still have life in them will be enjoyed by others who can get more mileage out of them!

But we have the added benefit of 'nothing really going to waste' here. Even junky worn out stuff with holes are turned into rags to be sorted and put to some creative use (I've seen beautiful quilted wall hangings and purses made from discarded silks and brocades!). So even when I 'throw things away' I know they more than likely won't be going to a landfill or incinerator any time soon!

October 25, 2006 5:03 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Georgette: Excellent point. You just taught me something.

October 25, 2006 9:41 AM  
Blogger Susan Peterson said...

Sometimes donated clothes that thrift stores can't sell are sold in bulk to be compressed into bales and used as ballast in ships going back to Africa. In Africa the clothes are sold, and people call them "dead white men's clothes" because no one alive would give away such good clothes! (I read this in a book written by an African, a Nigerian I think.)

By the way, those apples are probably not really all worm eaten and rotten, just misshaped with a few bad spots. They make very good apple sauce. I used to send my kids up on the hill behind our house with their school backpacks emptied of books to collect the apples from the orchards of abandoned farms...mostly small misshaped apples, but of many varieties and delicious. Then we cut them up,leaving the skin on, just cutting out truly rotten parts and the cores, and cooked them down, put them through the mill (you turn the handle and a blade pushes the stuff down against a rough surface and through holes-you can mash cooked apples, or pumpkin in it) spiced and sweetened it, and canned it. Sometimes I made 20 quarts of this stuff. That is what my kids ate for their snacks; homemade bread with this homemade apple sauce on it. Sometimes a side of homemade pickles.

So those crumby looking apples are not worthless either.

But you probably don't have time to make apple sauce, alas. I don't anymore either, although my daughter did make a small amount from the peels and cores from the last apple pie we made.

In our society we have too much stuff but not enough time.

Susan Peterson

October 28, 2006 10:51 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Susan: You make a good point. I'm not a fan of applesauce and I would not have time to make it even if I was. I wish I knew someone who made their own 'sauce. I'd give them the apples.

October 29, 2006 8:15 AM  

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