This evening I received an e-mail from a friend requesting donations of baby clothing & toys for an acquaintance who is facing financial troubles.
Boxes of outgrown baby clothing have been sitting in the corner of my dining room for months (waiting for our semi-annual church clothing sale in October). Everytime I walk down the stairs and see them I feel slightly annoyed by the clutter, so I was only too happy to re-direct them to this person in need.
Our two play areas are overflowing with toys. We are blessed with generous friends & family (and have purchased things ourselves too), however the amount of “stuff” can be a bit overwhelming to look at – so I was excited to grab a box this evening and fill it with some excess toys.
As I was filling the box I was asking myself things like “Which of these 7 baby dolls should I give away?” “Which of these 10 toy cars would be least missed?” “Which of these 5 balls is used least?”
Needless to say I filled the box and our toy rooms are still plenty full.
I called my friend to see if these people would be interested in things like blankets and adult clothing. She wasn’t sure but shared with me that their financial situation was so dire that 5 months ago their heat had been turned off (note that was January…and, for the record, we live in Canada) because they hadn’t paid their bill and their water would soon be turned off.
And she was 9 months pregnant.
I can’t imagine how scared and stressed they must have been.
I mentioned that there was a toy playhouse still in the packaging that I wanted to include with the items (hoping it might come in handy for a future Christmas or birthday present) and my friend asked if I was sure I wasn’t giving away things my daughters should be using. I assured her my daughters wouldn’t miss it. It’s the third one they’ve received.
Let me repeat that. The third.
7 dolls? 10 cars? 5 balls? 3 little playhouses?
How insane is that?
While I am so grateful for the gifts we’ve received I can’t help but be shocked by how unbelievably blessed we are.
I sit here in my air-conditioned house, typing on a laptop, surrounded by so many blessings that my on-going project is to get rid of most of them and not purchase more, so I can keep a decluttered house.
I feel sick to think about how this family could barely afford essentials and that their happiness in receiving clothing/toys matches my eagerness to give them away.
My current dilemmas are problems these people wish they could have:
- What should I do after my maternity leave – work in finance, work in a different field, or stay home? I have choices.
- What items in my house are unused and prime for giving away? I have so much stuff I literally don’t know what to do with it.
- Kids are in bed – what should I do with my time…blog? Clean for my company coming tomorrow? Sleep? I invited my church ladies group over for an impromptu gathering tomorrow morning and thought nothing of spending $20 on snacks and disposable plates (because with little ones keeping me up in the evening, I’d rather not have to do a whole load of dishes). More luxury choices.
- We’re visiting a friend’s cottage this weekend – what do I need to pack? What meals should I plan? I’m not even thinking twice about the gas money to drive 3-4 hours.
- Later this summer we’re going on a 2-week vacation – so for the past few months I’ve been contemplating/researching things like how to pack most efficiently, what hidden gems are in the area, how do you best entertain a toddler on an airplane?
These aren’t even real problems!!
While there’s no doubt that my husband and I have worked hard for the degrees we earned and jobs we’ve secured, I can’t help but think how unfair it is that we have so much and they have so little.
Tonight was a very poignant reminder that I have “first world problems”.
First world problems that are embarrassingly laughable when compared to people who are facing true financial or health hardships.
I’m happy that my eyes have been open to how blessed we have been with our abundance. I’m grateful that I have never had to worry about having enough money to meet our basic needs. I’m hopeful that I practice mindful consumption and generous sharing – not with the mindframe of reducing clutter, increasing my savings, or patting myself on the back, but with the knowledge that money is a very powerful resource that should be used and shared wisely.