Monday, April 22, 2013

Spring Cleaning is an Act of Charity

I can't be certain, but I have the idea that Martha, Mary and Lazarus didn't have a lot of stuff.  I picture them in a humble but comfortable home that had the amenities they needed. Okay. They probably had a vase, because I can imagine Mary out picking  bellflowers and crocus for the purpose of adding color to the table setting.

I, on the other hand, have stuff.  Having lived in the same home for 12 years, I've hoarded goodies like a squirrel preparing for the Ice Age. Under the bathroom sink, I discovered four different heating pads. They each serve a purpose. One simply heats. One produces moist heat. One heats and  vibrates. I'm not sure what extra talents the fourth one has, but I wouldn't have purchased it unless it did something special.

Do the math. One back + four heating pads = excessive attempts to mend achy muscles.

Is there someone out there on a limited budget who would love to find a heating pad at Goodwill? I'm hopeful there are three such people, because I only need one heating pad.

I'm embarrassed to mention the serving trays. Always a wanna-be hostess, in reality, I don't give a lot of parties.  Santa Clarita is out of the way for most friends. We have odd schedules that prohibit us from having social lives.   Maybe there is someone who needs a little color in their lives; who, if they served their meal on a pretty tray would experience a little joy.

I came up with two bags of clothing. You know the shirts and pants I'm talking about. The ones that haven't seen daylight in three years. The ones that "might fit" someday. Well, there is someone who could use a new outfit right now but can't afford a shopping trip to a department store. They're in luck.

I give my clothing and goods to Goodwill, because I like that they employ people who might not otherwise have a job. Jobs give us a paycheck, but they give us dignity as well.

In our CVS parking lot, I've noticed a collection box for clothes and shoes. I'm not exactly Imelda Marcos, but I do have several pairs that I don't wear often. Off they go.

Clutter makes me crazy. Many studies support the theory that reduced clutter means reduced stress, so I'm doing something for myself as well. Acts of charity work the same way. They make us feel good. They take us out of selfish mode and put us in touch with our authentic human nature. We weren't made for selfishness; we were made for worship, and what better way to worship God than to take care of His people?

Father Robert Barron suggests that, when you shop for a large purchase, find what you like and buy the next model down in price. Give the price difference to the poor.  He also reminds us of Luke:3 11. "John replied, "If you have two coats, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry."

Martin Luther King said, "A hand up, not a hand out." That's because King knew the value of human dignity. It's not just the receiver who must be allowed to retain their dignity. We must take personal care of our neighbor's welfare. It's the heart of being Christian. (I can't speak for other religions, though I do know that during Eid al-Adha, Muslims are required to give to charities and feed the poor.)

Taking care of the poor isn't just a duty. It's the right of every human being. When we dismiss the poor as a faceless group that the government will take care of, we reduce them from being dignified human beings who have a direct connection to us to being someone else's problem. They become a deduction from our paycheck, something we no longer notice.

I may never see the face of the person who benefits from my charity, because unless I hand out shoes and lunches directly to the people on skid row (and I know a woman who does exactly that) there will always be an intermediary, such as the Red Cross workers or the Knights of Columbus members who collect my donation. But by putting effort into getting useful items into the hands of someone who needs them, I'm making a personal sacrifice, no matter how small. I'm stepping forward and saying I will personally help you, because I care about what happens to you.

That's powerful stuff. The clean house is just an added bonus.

Find your local charity:

St. Vincent de Paul
Just Give   (Note: This sounds good, but I don't personally know anything about them.)


  1. We should never have turned over the role of charity to the government. The fact they take a large portion of the money for themselves before they toss the crumbs to other humans is not the way it was supposed to be.

    Those who need the hand up start thinking that is the way life will always be and don't try to improve themselves. Now we have created an under class of dependents who stop trying to do things for themselves.

    And most of our "poor" have cell phones, automobiles, places to live, medical care, free food stamps, and free education. That used to be called "middle class."

    And who pays for it? The other half of society. Half. I'm glad I can find homes for my extra stuff. I do a better job giving it away and I don't take a nickle for doing it. And I don't deduct it. If I can do it, the government can get out of the business. They charge too much anyway. My tax rate was larger than some in Washington, D.C.

  2. Clean houses and charity. Both benefit from a good spring cleaning. Even though we've been in our new house less than a year, there are things I've saved, thinking like you, that I will someday use them. Fortunately there are organizations that collect on our street at least once a month. Usually have a bag or two set out for them. And it does feel good to have less "stuff."

  3. Oooh. What are the names of the charities? And do you have to call them to set up a collection? I know that St. Vincent de Paul will sometimes come around, and so will one of the veteran's organizations. (Darn. I can't remember their name!)