Second-Hand Dignity: To the Donation Centre or to the Dump?

June 16, 2015 2 min read

A while ago, I read this very compelling piece called Dear World: Let’s Stop Giving Our Crap to the Poor. It’s a great read, but if you don’t want to go down the blog rabbit hole, I’ll give a basic summary:

The blogger, Kristen, recounts a story of collecting needed goods for a trip to Kenya. One of the items she had requested for the Kenyan team was an iPhone, which she then received, used, as a donation from a local church. When Kristen arrived and found that the donated iPhone was essentially useless, she left them with her own. Upon returning home, the church happily offered to replace Kristen’s iPhone with a new one. Why, then, hadn’t they just bought a new one in the first place?! she asks.

“Just because it makes us feel better (and cleans out our garage at the same time), doesn’t mean it’s the best for those in need.”

I’ve thought about this many, many times since I read the article last fall.

I think about it every time my 1.5-year-old’s drawers need culling, which, due to the rapid pace of baby-toddler growth, is often!

I think about it as my middle child (and youngest girl) outgrows dresses and frills that her little brother will not be wearing.

I think about it when I pick up obsolete-to-us toys & fast-food trinkets for “the box”.

I pull out the baby onesies (undoubtedly stained) and the preschool dresses (possibly stained, likely with a hole or partially unraveled seam) and the outgrown toys (usable, but a bit bashed up, with a remaining bit of crusted on lint in the deepest crevices that will never be fully gone) and I think: WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH THESE THINGS?!?

Because I completely agreethat while “the poor may not have wealth, they have dignity.” Every human deserves dignity. Every human deserves clean, fresh clothes to feel good in & be proud of.

But, that t-shirt with the tinted circle from the banana mush that never fully went away: should I just throw it in the garbage? Is that better than donating it to Goodwill or the Salvation Army? What else can I do with it? I am legitimately asking.

My pragmatism says, “Of course, give them away. Somebody might need an item at a low price and if you donate it, that becomes an option.” But, I’ve started to wonder whether this is just an excuse to mitigate my guilt over lazy laundering and buying more than I need.

The truth is, I don’t really want to know how much of my donation actually goes on the shelves and, ultimately, to another home. I don’t want to know how much goes into the dumpster because it was too dirty or broken and I was too disinterested to clean or fix it. Because then I will be aware of my stewardship of my "stuff" and I don't think I will like it. I think I will feel guilty. I think I will want to change. And I don't want to change.

Can anyone else relate?

 

 


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