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Giving just a little bit more

Giving is a gift to ourselves.
shelley column pic
Shoes, shoes and more shoes

There was a book of short stories I had as a child that I would read over and over again. When I finished one story I knew exactly what was coming before I turned the page. The one about the sugar bowl followed the one about the school play, which followed the story of the house with the sad windows. The binding started to split and the corners of the pages were curling up due to the number of times each page had been turned. The book was, as they say, well loved.

I’ve been contemplating the book shelves in my house. They are filled with volumes I have read, ones I say I want to read again, and too many I have yet to crack open. The issue becomes compounded by the books on my eReader that are asking for my attention too. None show the signs of being as well loved as that children’s story book, yet I hang on to so many. Too many. They will likely still be there the next time I contemplate shelf organization. Why is that? Why haven’t I gotten rid of more of them?

Then there are shoes. When it’s time to reorganize footwear it is easy to think the answer is more shelves as we deal with pairs spilling off the racks. No, no we don’t need an additional shelf. We need fewer shoes.

It’s not just books or shoes. Think about our cupboards, closets, and garages. How much of what is in there are items we will actually make use of again? Does the “I might need that someday” justification we typically give, warrant the space it takes up or the clutter it potentially creates?

We hold on to things we worry we might need in the future, and can’t imagine not having it when we go looking. But truly, how many times has that ever happened? If it’s packed away in a box, tucked in the back of a closet, or sitting stacked on a shelf, chances are we won’t need it again. So it all goes unused, while at the same time others are going without. Without shoes. Without books. Without basic necessities that are cluttering up the spaces of others.

Consider the dishes we don’t use, duplicates of kitchen utensils we don’t need, or piles of clothing that never gets worn. Imagine those same items in places where they could be appreciated and useful.

Gloria is a senior citizen living in a neighborhood apartment where most residents are classified as the working poor, but where people look out for each other. A few years ago, Gloria was determined to help out the younger families in the building whose parents were doing their best to provide for their children but finding it a struggle despite working multiple jobs. She decided one thing she could do was help with children’s shoes.

Gloria doesn't have a lot of extra money but she has time, so she would regularly check out thrift stores in her city. Taking a series of busses, she can hit several different locations in a morning and once inside buy up as many good quality shoes for children she can find. Sizes aren’t an issue since a pair is bound to fit one child or another in the building. Once purchased, she takes them home and sets them on shelves that parents and children can come and select from. The parents are most grateful and the kids love “Grandma Gloria.” Gloria says she couldn’t do what she does if it weren’t for all the people who give away the shoes their children have outgrown. For that, she is most grateful.

It matters little how often we donate the things we no longer use—just that we do it. What matters is knowing we can help put them into the hands of those who need the very things we don’t. Maybe an unread book will become the one someone else reads until the corners curl or the spine falls apart. Or perhaps a pair of forgotten shoes could be the difference between going barefoot or being able to do the things requiring proper footwear. But let's not delay. The 'too much' and 'too many' can starting being overcome tomorrow. It could greatly impact the life of someone you don’t know. It can also mean having more time and space to see, appreciate and enjoy the things we really love. In the giving, we are getting a whole lot more back. That’s my outlook.