Lessons in a Trash Bag

Friday, September 29, 2017

I put a couple of fleece jackets, a long sleeve shirt or two, and some sweaters in a trash bag today.

You wouldn't think that was the start of a compelling story about faith, but it is.

You see, my mom texted me today and asked if I was going to Walmart this weekend. The reason is that she is going out of town and she needed me to run an errand for her there. A man who is a big-time volunteer at one of our local food and clothing pantries, the Eastern Cabell County Humanities Organization (ECCHO), stopped into her office today and informed her that ECCHO is really in need of clothing for children ages infant through age 16. My mom wondered if she could give me a gift card so I could shop for clothes for her. Pick out things to donate with someone else's money? That sounds like a ton of fun! And it was.

I don't have a lot of extra money in my budget, although I do try to give where I can (like most people I bet), but I do have a closet that has clothes in it. In fact, I have two. (The big perk of living alone in a two-bedroom apartment, formerly shared by a rabbit who took up very little space. Except in my heart.) I decided it was time to take a look in my closet. Even though I am 33 and have one foot in the grave, I thought I might have something that a high school girl wouldn't feel totally embarrassed to wear.

Now, I love to clean my closet out, and, in fact, do it about every month or so because I pretty much live for throwing things away. (Well, not throwing things away, but getting rid of things.) However, I had done this pretty recently and wasn't sure what I'd find to give to ECCHO. But then I remembered, "... this was our one opportunity to give to this specific family, just this one moment in time."

You see, I love a blog called Tiny Green Elephants written by my role model and wannabe friend, Amy. Amy is about my age, and she has one biological son, and three adopted children, two of whom are from Russia, and the other is from Ethiopia. Naturally, when you're young (we're young, right?) and are paying for multiple adoptions and trips across the world to get your children, money is tight. So Amy has written a lot in the past about giving and what you do with opportunities to give. The quotation that I cited above is just one of the many times she's said something along those lines.

Her point is, sometimes our window of opportunity to give to a specific person or need is small, and we need to do what we can in that window. She says, "Even when you feel like you have nothing to give, you just say yes, and try, then God makes your gift bigger than you could make it, it’s really good."

That's what I thought about as I talked to Joe on the phone on the way home from Walmart. "Why should I hoard a sweater I might wear a couple of times this January when there might be a little girl IN MY OWN COUNTY who could wear the sweater all winter?" I said to him.

Fast forward to me getting home. I peered into my closet, and I immediately found a couple of fleece jackets that are still nice and in good condition. Because Joe has a huge heart and wants to make sure I'm taken care of even though he's far away, he has purchased me a couple of jackets in the past year, one of which is more like a really warm zip up sweater. I told myself that I do not need all these jackets, and those nice fleece ones could hopefully find a new home with a sweet girl. I found a couple long sleeve shirts that I also thought would fit the bill.

Well, this is fun! I told myself.

Until ...

(You knew this was coming.)

... I saw two sweaters in my closet that I have been contemplating donating for some time now. There's nothing really special about them. One is a cardigan (sort of, it's hard to describe) from the Ann Taylor Loft and one is a pullover by Lauren Conrad for Kohl's. So nothing fancy, just a couple sweaters I've had for a couple of years.

As I looked at them, I thought, "Well, I really like these sweaters. And what if I want to wear them? I will be so cozy ..." and then I had this fun dream sequence where I wore my lovely cream pullover sweater by a crackling fire. (In reality, I hate winter and will more likely be wearing the donut leggings Colleen bought me with a shirt that doesn't match whilst I pray for summer. )

I hope you read that in a whiny voice because I was totally whining.

Then, I heard a voice that cut into that whining, and that voice said, "DONATE THE SWEATERS, ANNA."

Yeah. That was God.

"What was that? I couldn't quite hear you ..." I said to myself, still around that crackling fire.


Yes, sir. Got it that time.

So the sweaters went in the bag.

And I remembered those exact words I said to Joe: "Why should I hoard a sweater I might wear a couple of times this January when there might be a little girl IN MY OWN COUNTY who could wear the sweater all winter?" 

I say all this to say, I am a sinner, and a materialist, and my first instinct is to keep my stuff because MAYBE I will want to wear it once or twice this winter.

Luckily for me, God (and Amy) was ready to step in and remind me about what giving is about.

Giving is not about getting rid of things you don't want or spending your "extra" money.

Giving is about actually GIVING someone SOMETHING YOU YOURSELF MIGHT WANT. I've even told the students that before. "If you think carrots are gross, then please do not bring a can of carrots as a donation to the food drive!"

Giving is about thinking about someone else before yourself.

Giving is about realizing that some of us are blessed to not only have more than one sweater, but to also have the ability to go and buy a sweater if we really needed one.

Bottom line: was Jesus hoarding sweaters like Anna? Um, no. Jesus did not hoard sweaters. Jesus literally gave his ONE life for us, so I can probably give a couple sweaters.

Maybe one day I'll learn my lesson.

I also wanted to mention how fortunate I am to have people in my life who, when I hear "ECCHO needs clothes," I can immediately text and know they'll come through. Thank you so much Kim, Dave, and Eileen for being three people my mind goes to when I know there is a need to fill at ECCHO. I am humbled to serve with you.

1 comment:

  1. Anna, you really are (magic) amazing! The timing of this was divine providence as it so often is when I need a nudge. I heard Him through you tonight. Loud and clear! Thank you for sharing your heart with us!


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