“About those donations….”
This month, my family celebrates giving. We don’t just give presents; my wife and kids volunteer bell-ringing for the Salvation Army collections, and this year they’re helping collect food for students with uncertain situations. We also tend to donate money and other goods throughout the year, but make a special effort this time of year. My wife and I want my son and daughter to know that for whatever they receive, someone had to give.
This brings me to a situation I came across on Facebook, and I think it’s something worth discussing. A friend of mine, Eli (not his real name) is heading home to East Africa to see his family and is collecting donations for the children in their village so that the church can give to those who are in need, which is incredible. Eli split his time between the States, where his dad was pursuing an education and raising support, and his home country, where his parents started a church. By that, I mean that they built the church themselves, using the raised support. His father moved through the ranks of their organization and is now an overseer of churches in several surrounding nations.
So, Eli is asking for donations for these kids, and the first few comments are from well-meaning people…saying they’ll go through their kids’ closets and see what they find. I was immediately disheartened. Not because I’m against donating in that way. It’s just that before returning to church ministry, I worked for a non-profit with at-risk teens. Seeing the kinds of things that people deem “acceptable” to give and donate was simply sad. We had to sort through clothing donations and remove underwear and socks. We also removed anything that was stained or that had holes. As I said, I am all for people donating to those in need…but don’t use donations as an excuse to get rid of stuff you should throw away yourself, but can’t due to sentimentality or whatever.
The fact of the matter is, these are people receiving these items, in many cases, the most vulnerable among us. They are made in the image of God. Do they not deserve the same dignity as your own children? In Eli’s case, these are children who don’t have much…and we’re going to give them items that we wouldn’t dress our own kids in? In my case, these kids would come to us with only what they could stuff in a backpack or sometimes a garbage bag. Their entire lives, uprooted, and all they have is what they could pack in 15 minutes. And if there was something they forgot or didn’t have, they’d search the clothes closet, full of these donated hand-me-downs, most of which didn’t fit.
So, what items do shelters need? What would I donate this season? There’s a running list:
- packs of socks
- underwear, including undershirts
- new clothing, with the tags still on (but not the price tag)
- towels and washcloths
- other hygiene items
- OR, call your local shelter and find out specifically what they need, and in what sizes
As for Eli, next time I see him, my plan is to hand him a gift card to Walmart or Target to get what these kids need. All I’m trying to say is, give to those in need this season as you would give to family.
J C Prescott. Bible Scholar / Teacher