In recent weeks, our rural corner of the world was one of several locations across the country that experienced devastating fires. What could have been a quick containment of flames, became a nightmare due to high, gale force winds. And who would have ever thought, that wildlife fleeing for their lives, would have spread the fire? Rabbits, pheasants, and other animals, literally ablaze, carried flames across ground that had been plowed to stop the fire, into the adjoining dry fields that were prime tinder.
Homes, outbuildings, livestock, and livelihoods were destroyed. We read the gut-wrenching stories of ranchers having to shoot their own suffering, burned cattle. After the final flames were extinguished, as the aftershock set in, people and agencies responded swiftly with aid and comfort.
The storefront of a close friend became a hub for donations. I spent an afternoon in her business volunteering. The volume of donated items was amazing and heartwarming. Yet, in the stacks and piles of clothes, kitchen items, towels, small appliances,and toys, lurked a disturbing trend. At least, it was to me.
As I sorted through a bag of items, I picked up a “well-used” baking tin, complete with encrusted food from it’s last usage. With my eyebrows raised in disbelief, I looked at another person standing nearby, and asked…”Really??” Her comment? “You wouldn’t believe what people have brought in.”
I began looking a bit closer at some of the “donations”…..dirty coffee pots, ancient small appliances with frayed electrical cords wrapped in black electrical tape, decades old clothing reeking of cigarette smoke , half empty shampoo bottles.
When did it become OK to dump your unwanted “crap” at a donation site? Why is it OK to assume families who have lost everything should be “happy and thankful” with stinky, outdated clothing and food encrusted kitchen items? Haven’t they been traumatized enough? It seems cruel to insult them with cast-off “donations”.
There is what I have termed “Donation Etiquette”…
- Giving cash through a donation site such as “Go Fund Me”, or a government agency such as the Red Cross is usually the best way to give. Even five dollars makes a difference!
- Call! Care enough to pick up your phone to find out what the specific needs are.
- Bottled water, canned food, and cleaning supplies are always useful.
- Give your time. Volunteer.
- Goodwill, and like-organizations, are great alternate resources for your gently used items.
- Disaster donation sites are NOT a dumping ground for items you have had stored for years.
In addition to your material giving, please give the gift of prayer for these families. Pray for their livelihoods, their children, and the needed strength and courage to rebuild. Precious lives were lost in the Texas fires. Pray for the families that now sit at dinner tables with empty places.