“Shouldn’t generosity be handled like prayer in that a person shouldn’t make a big public show of doing it?” asked my friend Rick.
Rick nodded and commented about one of his aunts who loves to remind people how amazingly generous she is.
I thanked Rick for generously providing a topic for my blog. I explained that I haven’t written about the subject of generosity for quite awhile.
I won’t address Rick’s question regarding humility and privacy in praying and giving, I’ll leave that to Christians to mull over. I will state that personally, I agree with the ideal of not making public displays of prayer and charity. I’ll leave it at that.
Rick works part time at one of the town’s thrift stores and spends most of his work day at the receiving dock and in the sorting room. One of the most frustrating aspects of that work is sorting out clean, usable items from piles of dirty, broken stuff that should not have been donated in the first place. Rick suggested I write about thrift stores and generosity.
The ratio of “donated” ruined, broken, and unsanitary things to good stuff is maybe 3:7. The store had to purchase an industrial strength trash compactor. Even though the garbage gets compacted, the huge amount of useless, dangerous, unsanitary stuff fills up a very large dumpster each week.
Rick says it seems like people believe that dropping off broken, torn and filthy things show that they are being generous. On the other hand, there are people who donate clean, useful items that someone else might actually need.
“Generosity is not giving me that which I need more than you do, but it is giving me that which you need more than I do.”–Khalil Gibran
The thrift store requires that employees at the receiving dock ask each donor if they want a receipt for tax purposes. Rick notes that most people decline. Among the few who want receipts, the majority of that group are the people who “donate” the most horrible garbage. Thankfully, there are a few folks who want receipts who also donate nice, decent quality items.
Brandon, a former manager of the area Goodwill Store, told me that ten years ago, the company was more or less forced to supervise all donations. The store used to have large donation bins behind the store so people could donate items during non-business hours. The amount of trash and household garbage to good donated items was about 50-50. By default, the store had become a garbage sorting station.
“What is called generosity is usually only the vanity of giving; we enjoy the vanity more than the thing given.”–François de La Rochefoucauld
The worst items were mattresses, couches, and upholstered chairs. If they weren’t already broken, torn, and filthy, rain or snow made the items worse off. A decade ago, the store could not afford to buy a trash compactor so they required more garbage dumpsters in order to handle the household trash that people dropped off overnights.
Aside from the trash compactor and industrial size dumpster, the ten-year-old receiving dock upgrade included a set of high-definition security cameras. So when people drop off stuff overnight, the cameras record the description of the vehicle and the license plate numbers. The store does press criminal charges against people who violate their policy against dumping. This is posted on a large sign at the receiving dock.
A takeaway from the information about thrift store donations, is that a lot of people dump useless, and dangerous stuff at the stores. The garbage bill cuts deeply into business overhead, and presents health and safety hazards to the employees. People need to be more discerning when selecting items to be donated to thrift stores. If something is broken or unsanitary, it should go directly to the trash and not to a thrift store.