It all started with Avery's gauntlets. He's a skinny little chicken bone of a child and he gets cold easily. (He also packs away huge amounts of food so you needn't worry about him.) Avery is a big fan of blankets, wool socks, hand warmers etc. Last year I was trying to learn how to knit a gauntlet (arm warmer with a thumb hole) after a lot of frustration, I made one. Then I gave up. He wears that thing all the time and adores it. In an act of love, I tried to make the matching one. No luck. In fact, I've pulled it apart many times and have two neatly rewrapped balls of yarn to prove it. Knowing with all this back/meds business I'm not getting smarter or faster; I decided to meet his need for warmth another way. We watched a craft show where they made leg warmers from a thrifted sweater so I thought I'd try it - arm warmers and leg warmers are practically identical. We had a lot of donations packed and ready for Goodwill (Deseret Industries here in UT) so we hauled them over there and I went shopping for some sweaters to cut up.
I'm going to digress for a moment here... I know several people who think people with a nice income shouldn't buy second-hand as we should (and this is a direct quote) " Not steal affordable items from poor people who need it." I don't agree. First off, it's a store. I shop there. So what. Secondly as someone who cares for the earth, I'm not terribly enthusiastic about rushing off to buy brand new things when perfectly usable existing goods are available. And three, with our super-tight budget it is much friendlier to buy used as opposed to hauling our cookies to Buckle at the mall. Back to the story~
I found four sweaters that would make great hats, arm warmers and still have enough pieces left to sew plushie animals. As I was making my final selection two ladies came up to me and shoved a white paper in my hand and said Merry Christmas. I thought it was a coupon or a religious tract. I thanked them and watched them high-tail it out of the store - seriously, they sprinted.
When I looked at what they gave me, it was an envelope with a one hundred dollar bill in it. We looked for them to return the gift as they were obviously trying to lighten someone's burden during tough economic times and we certainly don't fit the criteria of needing help. Didn't find them. So we paid for our sweaters and left the store. Utterly unsure of what to do.
We considered giving it to someone else but didn't feel right about picking who looked like they were having the hardest time. We thought of friends we know who could really use the cash but didn't want to risk making them uncomfortable.
In the end. We donated it to to a local homeless shelter that we are involved with. One hundred dollars provides shelter for seventeen days. It's nice to know that with a big storm bearing down on Utah, we did a little to help make sure there is funding to keep people warm and safe.
The gift brought up our personal concerns and quirks. My husband immediately started berating himself for his outfit and decided he must not be dressing as nicely as he could be.
I blurted, " It's because the boys have duct tape on their jackets!" My issue. The boys have these wonderful, perfect-fit, expensive ski jackets that they are very attached to. The fronts split at the the outer layer, just a few inches but in an irreparable spot. We covered the rips with a strip of tape and they happily went back sledding. While the fix is frugal, environmentally friendly and it helps them keep jackets they (oddly) love, I feel weird about it. And I was positive it was why they thought we could use the money. Flaw to my theory was that the kids weren't nearby. Oops.
Here's a pic of the duct tape on Avery's jacket:
My mom would say God was blessing us and rewarding our diligence.
I think it's less than that. I think some very sweet, generous people saw a nice young couple and wanted to make our Christmas special. Thank you anonymous ladies.
But, FWIW, this is why I prefer targeted acts of kindness. By using appearance as your criteria to determine need, they chose a family that was economically stable but was having a casual day (and let's face it, with my back how it is right now, everyday is casual day). That money could have made a real difference to a struggling family this Christmas.
I would love to hear your thoughts on what you would have done in our place. Would you have been embarrassed? Humbled? Would you have kept it? Given it to another random shopper like you were playing Hot Potato? Donated it? Is it more honorable to give a random person $100 or pay down your debt by that amount? Would you be embarrassed if a friend gave you cash because they knew you could really use it? Should we have done something random ourselves - Bought 100 chocolate bars and handed them out all day? Do you think there was a moral dilemma at play here or were we over-thinking it?