Most of us have been taught that filling a garbage bag with old clothes and dropping it off at Goodwill or the Salvation Army is being charitable. The guilt of over-consumption is temporarily suppressed and we carry on. This is not being charitable. Just as offering someone your leftovers is not sharing. Sharing is offering a portion before you’ve had your first bite.
My mother says that giving away what you don’t want is not being charitable or generous because there’s no sacrifice or self-denial; you were going to get rid of the items anyway. Giving to charity what you really want for yourself or delaying a treat for yourself in order to help someone else is true charity. But, rather than top up the landfills, by doing the extra work of mending, washing, packing and delivering used – but still useable – goods to charity is, at the very least, thoughtful and eco-conscious. It helps someone in need and helps delay the item’s inevitable interment. Win-win.
A friend sent an e-mail about a clothing drive at her childrens’ school. It’s the perfect excuse to let go of what I haven’t even thought about wearing for over a year. And now, halleluia – some clothes are too big on me. They have to go. The timing is tight, though: the clothing drive ends at noon on Friday the 14th. Donations can be dropped off at Sir Richard W. Scott Catholic School in Markham, Ontario. (90 Roxbury, 14th Ave. and Markham Rd. 905-472-3964) They are looking for winter clothing, especially outerwear. If you live anywhere near the school, please consider a quick, unsentimental closet purge, as I will, too.
In the spirit of abiding by my mother’s definition of charity, I will give away something beautiful that I would like to keep for myself, but I know will make someone less fortunate feel lucky and grateful for a little while. I imagine someone who counts on charitable hand-outs already feels a little bad about their situation. Having to chose between damaged or stained items (as are often in charity bins) must be completely demoralizing. I’ll make sure to only give really good quality, presentable items for others to enjoy.
Kindness, generosity and charity are our unspoken covenants with each other. I’ve made it a habit since my university days. Back then, I defined luxury as buying a CD. And to feel as though I was a contributing member of society, every time I bought a CD, I would send $20 to Covenant House, a place for run-away teens. I couldn’t bear the thought of me buying a non-essential, while others a bit younger than me didn’t have a place to sleep. It was my way of showing compassion. And certainly, donating $20 prevented me from buying a second CD, so it fit the ‘sacrifice’ portion of charity.
I’m curious to know how parents are teaching their children about charity. What were you taught? Please post your comments. You may have a very helpful idea.