We run a thrift store. Out of that thrift store, we are able to help people in our community with essential items. Some of our customers come in to shop for bargains. Others come in to shop for free due to a hardship. Thank God our community has responded so well to this. They donate items all the time and they keep us running. They are truly the blessing in this story.
As with anything else, there are a few bad apples to spoil any bunch. We have people who come by to donate a couch, let’s say. The couch has been out on the back porch for a while. The dogs have laid and peed on it, it’s been rained on, it’s got huge gashes of fabric missing and the cushions are pretty much flat as a pancake. Like the picture above it is passed it’s expiration date. The conversation goes something like this:
US: “We’re sorry we won’t be able to take your couch as a donation. It has to be a usable item. It has to be ready for someone to use. Unfortunately we don’t have people who can repair it.”
THEM: “Well, isn’t it going to poor people?”
US: “Yes it is, however this couch isn’t usable in its condition.”
THEM: “I just think if you’re poor, and you need something, you take what you can get.”
US: “Yeah, sorry, no, we can’t take it. It isn’t usable. If you’d like us to dump it for you the dump fee is $20 since they charge us to dispose of it. If you want to pay the $20 we’ll dump it for you.”
This is when the conversation either gets weird or good. Sometimes it’s met with relief. They understand the problem, they just don’t know what to do with the item. They gladly pay the fee and leave it with us. Other times, they become angry. They say things like, “I’ll just go dump it by the homeless people stay.” Or they wait until we’re closed and leave it for us anyway, thus sticking us with the dump fee and therefore taking away $20 from the community help coffer.
Just because a person is having a difficult time, don’t they still deserve dignity? If you were the person struggling to make ends meet, would you want something that is not usable? How would that help you? How would that add quality to your life? We need to think beyond ourselves.
My prayer for the New Year is that we see that poverty in America is not always a sign of laziness. I know families who were on top of the world. Cars, kids in private school, living large and now, due to a reduction in the availability of work, they are having to ask for assistance. Yes, I see abuses of a system. We will always see that. Unfortunately just like the person wanting to save $20 from their pocket and stick it to the church, there are those who want to scam the church out of $20 too. Humanity dictates to us that we treat each other with dignity. Let’s try it. This year, let’s realize that everyone deserves a measure of respect. You never know when you’ll need that kindness reciprocated.