Saturday, May 19, 2007

Good deeds.

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?


Joey said...

Thank you for putting a different perspective on my life.

Heathie said...

This is such a good post. It actually made me cry a little. It reminds me of the sacrifices my mom made for her kids; wearing the same second-hand clothes for years so she could afford to buy us K-mart clothes. And yet, we were well-off compared to so many others...
Boy Child is such a good example of selfless giving.

Randi said...

Thanks for reminding me about how great my own life is. Perspective is everything, isn't it?

BS said...

I too pack up bags and bags of clothing and drop them off at the local charity (ACTS) and feel good that someone is going to get stuff for little or nothing. Because, once upon a time (a long time ago when my boys were very young), I would go to those stores and get them clothes so that I would have enough money to feed them decent meals and maybe a little treat from time to time. I am SO VERY THANKFUL that I no longer need to do that (and haven't had to for quite a while) and that I can now help provide for the current working single mothers who have deadbeat (ex)husbands who won't help take care of their own flesh and blood. Hats off to you and your son for helping to make a HUGE difference in someone's life.

Angie said...

You are one blessed woman. You have such a great heart--and your kids obviously got that in the whole DNA/birth/genetic pass-along thing. : )

I am so glad my friend pointed me to your blog. It has totally made this last month so cool!

Rachel (Crazy-Is) said...

Chick, I love you! I really do! You are such an amazing woman and I hope that somewhere in me, I have a little bit of what you do.

Alpha Dude said...

It looks to me that your children are being raised rather well.

I too regard your life with unmitigated awe. You taught me something today. Thank you.


Jocelyn said...

Hmmm. There are so many ways to look at this. I guess I would tell my son that "new" doesn't equal "good" and that one of the best things we can do--environmentally, morally, financially--is buy used, especially clothing, since it's something that moves through our life with regularity. I actually have friends--maniacs, really--who are part of a movement not to buy anything new (except food and such essentials) for an entire year. All presents, clothes, furniture, etc., is being found/bought second-hand. And they are very much upper-middle class.

My kids wet their pants at the sight of a garage sale, and few things make me prouder. We live at the Goodwill pretty much, too.

I do take your points, of course. But it would be okay to point out that passing things on has nothing to do with pride, really. If you you know you're cool, no one can take that away from you, right?

alissa said...

Thank you so much for that post.

I really needed it.

Em said...

I always have a weird combination of pride and shame when we donate. I'm happy that we are fortunate enough to be able to...and yet a bit embarrassed that we are able to. Weird.

But we also buy from the same store on occasion. Everyone in our family wears hand-me-downs or vintage clothing at times. And I always feel lucky that we can make that choice for financial and environmental reasons.

Anonymous said...

While it is nice that you feel blessed that you can buy new, you missed a wonderful opportunity to talk to your son about the costs of consumption. You could have talked about several different facts, depending on what would hit home with him:

The pollution of rivers by the fertilizer used to grow the cotton in his jeans and tees. A full pound went into the cotton just in the outfit he was probably wearing that day! ( See )...

The unending traffic you and he sit in, because trucks are delivering new goods from far away, so you can shop your local mall (not to mention the air pollution from all those delivery trucks)...

The hours his parents have to be away from home, working to earn the money to buy an outfit that the day he first wears it is, after all....USED.

Anonymous said...

Um...yeah....I'm late in reading this and everyone has already said what I would've said. So, I'll revert back to my "I love Target"??


Bethany said...

Ypu're a good egg.

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

I love reading posts like this - they make me want to be better. And wanting to be, is part of being, I think.

Jhianna said...

Wow, what a kid. And what a Mom, too. Great post...