Early this morning, I loaded my children and five huge trash bags stuffed full of used clothing into my Santa Fe and bebopped down the road to the area rescue mission's resale store.
I unloaded the bags and spoke to the woman who was working, who seemed quite pleased as she wrote out our receipt. I felt quite proud of myself as the clothes I had given her were nice. Not Gucci or anything, but nice. The children's clothes (the majority of the donation) were in excellent condition. The children simply went through a growth spurt and we had to make room in their closets. The clothing of mine was also nice, just things I had grown tired of.
Back in our vehicle, I said to the children, "Now we can go buy you some new shoes. Then we'll go get plants for our porch."
Boy Child said, thoughtfully, "Mom? Why did we take those bags to that place?"
I said, somewhat smugly I'm afraid, "That's a rescue mission store. That lady will take our things and put them out for sale."
Boy Child seemed a bit confused. "Our old things, mom?"
"Yes," I replied, changing lanes.
"Mom, why would someone want our old things?"
"Well," I said, "usually people who shop there are less fortunate. They'll be able to get something nice for not much money."
"Mom? Why don't we just buy them something new? They don't want our old things. They want new things, right?"
My brain screamed at me, "But my things are NICE! I'm doing them a FAVOR!"
And my heart screamed back at me, "When you were a child, would you have wanted your mom to go to the rescue mission to buy you shorts? Or a dress? Remember when you were the only kid in school who didn't have parachute pants? Remember your mom made all your clothes and you were different and how badly you wanted to belong?"
I felt sudden shame. Shame for being okay financially. Shame for thinking that my little pathetic used clothes would make someone happy.
I know that not everyone who shops at thrift stores is poor. I know there are a lot of funky, cool things to be found there and a lot of people, of all income levels, love to shop there. And I know that the money raised in that store does help the rescue mission at which I volunteer and that makes me very, very happy.
But this little store? I've seen women clutching the hands of little children duck their heads before they run across the parking lot into it. I've seen people who can't speak English and get paid under the table going in there. I've seen families who have holes in their pants looking at the items on the racks. I've seen desperation and shame as a young women looks through her purse, hoping to God she can find just one more dollar so that both kids can have socks with no holes in them.
I am no better than any of those people. I'm just a hell of a lot luckier.
Because I could have easily, easily been a person who had to shop there.
Is it any wonder that I regard my life with unmitigated awe?