Tag Archives: giving

Flashback: The False Charity of Clothing Drives

Originally Posted in February 2006

The story goes something like this:
A typical church in a well-to-do neighborhood is inspired by the stories shared by a visiting missionary. In an effort to contribute to the needs that the missionary has shared the church has a clothing drive and encourages members to donate their winter coats for those who don’t have a coat to keep warm. The drive is a wonderful success and the missionary sends word of how the coats have benefited the people she works with. This is a wonderful thing.
The following year, the church again encourages it’s members to donate their coats and clothing and again they fill boxes with used clothing and coats. Now we have a problem.

Why is this a problem? The needs of the community are being met, with coats and clothing coming their way. And to the degree that those needs are met it is hard to critique without being looked at poorly. Yet I will still address my concern about the church.

Let me entertain you with some questions:
1. Have you ever participated in a clothing drive?
Having heard about a need in the world, you recognized that you had more then enough for yourself, and you where compelled to share your possessions with those in need.

2. Look at your closet now. Does it reflect those same convictions that moved you to donate your clothes in the first place?

3. More specifically, if I looked at your closet now, would I be able to see your convictions reflected, or would I say you are a prime candidate for our next clothing drive?

See, the problem with clothing drives is that often they result in a “hand me down” sort of charity. We donate our old, out of fashion, and undesirable clothes and make room in our closets for the new wardrobe we’ve been eager to purchase. Not only do we physically clean out our closet, but do it in the name of “charity” as if these actions are a noble act of giving. (If I am not describing you, please don’t feel judged or feel the need to defend your actions). This is a “false charity.”

What am I suggesting instead? I would like to see convictions drive our actions, not events like a clothing drive. If you have two coats and you only need one, then you should give the other away. The next time there is a coat drive your only option should be to buy a new coat and donate that one to the coat drive, because the one you currently have you need. If you have more shoes then you need you should give them away, and if you have more clothes then you need you should give those away too.
A church full of people living out their convictions would have no use for a clothing drive (unless it was to collect new items), because every member would have already given away their excess.

“The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”*

May Comment Love: Kiva Loan to Westland Academy

Below is the women and the academy that we helped provide a loan for, from your comments!
The donation for this month is up to you as well! I’m planning on donating to an organization that work’s with children, as I’ll have one of my own soon, and it’s important to remember there are those who might not have the same opportunities if we don’t spread our resources. Read about Margaret and feel free to subscribe to updates from her! Then don’t forget to vote on were this month’s donation should go.

Margaret Juma is a 55-year-old entrepreneur who lives with her husband and six children in Rongo, Kenya. She trained as a community health worker to provide home-based care to people living with HIV/AIDS in her area.

Margaret (pictured with the children) is a proprietor of Westland Academy, initially started in 1998 as a nursery school with 40 children. Since then, the school has grown to 156 children. The school takes children from nursery level to primary level (now in class 6). Out of the 156 children, 63 are orphans, some of whom Margaret has taken into her home.

Owing to increased enrollment in her school, Margaret requires US $ 1200 to renovate classrooms that are in poor shape.

Subscribe to Updates from Margaret!


Comment Love: Encouraging the Conversation

Let me start by saying I have been truly blessed to have people regularly stop by and read my thoughts. It’s been encouraging to me in a great many ways unique to the way writing and blogs can produce conversation. Here, I can share deep thoughts I’ve been reflecting on and not only have the opportunity to be listened to, but also to engage in a conversation that challenges my thinking and spurs me on to being a better person.

In an effort to encourage the conversation even further, and to bless you and others through the conversation, I’ve implemented something called Comment Love. Some Random Dude, gave me the idea and I thought it was a neat way to both encourage further conversation and support some good causes at the same time. Here’s the run down of Comment Love:

  • Each comment in the May is worth $0.25 that will be given away at the end of the month.
  • The comments should be thoughtful and engage in the conversation (no trying to run up the numbers).
  • The limit will be $50 (Sorry, the pockets aren’t that deep), but if it’s a success I might try again next month.
  • I haven’t decided which organization to give to yet, so I’ll let the top commenters decide at the end of the month (Anyone gonna give Jamie a run for her money?). Here’s the options I had in mind: Kiva, Invisible Children, or IJM

There’s no catch or anything fancy here, just a chance to spread the love a little and encourage the conversation. I have made a few other changes to the blog recently also. Here’s a brief explanation…

  • New Design– A while ago I mentioned wanting to change my blog to a dark background to save energy. This was a great design I’ve been hoping to use that recently became available.
  • Gravatars– I’ve added an icon/image/gravatar feature, that’s your little profile picture next to your comments. If you haven’t done so already, sign up for one at gravatar.com. It’s extremely easy and only takes a minute to enter your email and upload your image. (If you don’t, I might end up figuring out how to choose one for you myself 😉
  • Share This- For those who like passing on blog posts, this link should make it easy. If you do any social bookmarking it’s got everything listed, and if you want to email someone it’s easy as pie, just enter their email address!
  • WordPress 2.1– Not that most of you care, but I upgraded to 2.1, it’s nice.
  • Asides- This is going to be a collection of mini random posts that will only be available on the bog, not through the rss or email subscriptions. Stay tuned.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to subscribe to the blog posts or comments so you can easily keep updated on the conversation.

Flash Back: A Podcast on Simple Living and the Poverty Line

I reposted about this topic in December, but I wanted to highlight the podcast, which I think is worth a listen. A while ago I chatted with my friend Nate about simple living and some discussion we had had on our blogs and others comments. It was quite interesting.

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For the original post, On Simple Living and living “a dollar above” the poverty line

Random Scraps: It’s not about the Money

Note: Okay, so I’m going through my old drafts of posts I started but never finished. I feel like I’m so removed from when I first wrote them that it wouldn’t make sense to complete them, but they are interesting enough that they might create some conversation, so I’m putting them up.

Financial clarification #1: It’s not about the money
I felt like it is important for me to address two points that were brought up by readers as to what they understood me to be advocating for: the pursuit of not having money and Poverty as righteousness.
I realize that I might come across as advocating for these two things because what I AM advocating for is so radically different then what are culture presents to us. In a culture that is so focused on the accumulation of wealth a statement like “give freely” comes across as odd and as an extreme. In a culture that says your lifestyle should be grand regardless of income level a statement about living on what you need rather then what you want seems rather backwards.
I know we are trying to talk about finances here, but do me a favor for a moment and forget money exist at all. No such thing as money. My points are still the same. Going to a college like Wheaton makes it difficult for you to question that type of lifestyle since you and so many other “Christians” at the college are living it. Hoarding your possessions is not what Christ calls us to, rather to give freely.

On Clothes.
I never felt too poor to afford something, but I knew somethings where just too expensive. Let’s use the example of clothes. You might find this funny, but in middle school and half of high school I was all about name brands. I wanted the nike swoosh on my shoes and my t-shirt. Here’s how my mom handled clothes. We would look in the closet at the beginning of the school year and decided if and how many jeans, shirts, and shorts I needed. Then she would allot me some money for each item (it was about $15 for jeans, $5 for a shirt, and $10 for shorts). If I wanted something that cost more then that I had to dig out my allowance, babysitting and lawn mowing money and pay for the additional cost.

Jesus does say the Poor are blessed with the Kingdom, that’s at least worth pondering.

There was some interesting thoughts and issues brought up in the comments on two previous post: Your Problem with Giving is Probably you, and A Major Flaw of Wheaton College.

I felt these two thoughts where important to address in our Finance lessons so here is…
Financial Lesson #3: Money is simply a mean’s of trade

One thing my parent’s did a good job instilling in me just by example, was that money wasn’t really a big deal. My dad has switched jobs a lot, and my mom has worked varying amounts (sometimes full-time other times half-time) throughout my life. Never did I feel like there was a correlation between their work and how much money they working making and how well off we were. I never felt poor, I never felt rich. You see, money wasn’t that important, what dictated our lifestyle was our values. My first real job was at Pizza Hut. Before that I had picked up bunches of odd jobs through my dad (he owned a temporary employment service), and I enjoyed that cause they were simple jobs and they usually paid well. But the summer after my sophomore year my dad told me I had to go out and get a job myself. Why? It wasn’t to make more money, it was to learn to go out on my own, it was about values. Money isn’t that important, what should dictate our lives is our values. If God had “blessed” my parent’s as billionaires my dad would have still made me go out and find a job on my own.

I don’t know if that helps to give a little perspective of where I think some of my mindset comes from. The two comments I want to address are: “a person’s goal becomes to not have money” and “poverty is righteousness”
I am NOT advocating for either of these. I think the reason both of these commenters have come to these interpretations of what I have been saying is because money was misinterpreted as being a high priority. Here’s what I mean.
When I talk about Wheaton College and how expensive everything is I don’t mean to focus on the money. I mean to say we are like the Rich Man with the beggar Lazarus outside our gate. It is not about the money it is about our value that God does not call us to store up wealth, he calls us to care for the needs of others.

I would be silly to advocate for “poverty is righteousness.”

The Perversion of Our Clothing

One of my dear friends and Housemates, Josh, wrote a excellent post yesterday about Fashion. He went out on a limb and compared it to pornography in it’s perversion. Basically, pornography is perversion of sex, but do we pervert other things?

It is a commonly accepted idea that the human body needs 3 things to survive: food, water & shelter. To eat, drink and be clothed are all very natural and healthy things, much like sex (in it’s proper use) is. We have a word for people who pervert the need for hunger: glutton. We have a word for people who pervert the need for drink: drunkard. We also have a word for people who pervert the need for shelter: fashionable.

And then he really get’s to the heart of things:

the average American household spends about $2000 a year in clothing. The reason? We’re not buying clothes so that we are protected from the elements, but rather to impress our peers.

Perversion doesn’t get much clearer than this. Clothes were originally designed to cover our nakedness and then later to protect us from the elements. We’ve taken this basic need and perverted it. To me, this is possibly even a worse kind of perversion than pornography, because shelter is a basic need for life. No one (although some young men may try to argue it to their would-be lovers) has ever died from not having sex. But countless people die everyday from lack of shelter.

Read the rest…

What’s amazing about reading Josh’s thoughts on this, is that they are not said in a bubble, or into cyberspace were there is no real accountability. Josh shares his thought’s amongst a community that he eats and breathes with. A community that will be encouraged and challenged by what he said and will be eager to both encourage him and be encouraged to live out the convictions we’ve come to in following Christ.
Be strong, brother.

You really have to go read Josh’s entire post.

The Very Resistible Revolution

Tonight, it’s Wednesday again, and for the past many weeks we are supposed to have a Book Study on the book by Shane Claiborne called the The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. It’s a great book, and it was instrumental in three of our community (meaning the people I live with: Daniel, Josh and Chris specifically) members decision to radically change their life and join our little community venture in Christ-like living.
Anyways, back to the book study. The book study is part of Josh and Daniel’s church, it was one of many community group options this fall at their rather large church. It started off great, with about 8-10 folks signed up to come (plus those already at our house), and for the first night most showed up. Some even showed up for the second night and a few stayed around to the third or fourth. But then things seemed to drastically drop off.
Maybe it was the decision’s to put down our books for a couple Wednesday evenings and help a women in the church’s neighborhood fix up her house that had been ransacked by area drug dealers. Maybe it was conversation about giving up your stuff, stopping our rampant consumerism, or loving Jesus by loving others to the point of real sacrifice. Maybe it was when Shane’s book started talking about war, or hanging out on the streets with homeless folks, or throwing money out on Wall Street to declare a jubilee.

Whatever it was, it’s caused us in the community to think a little about the decisions we’ve made. We’ve realized the revolution is extremely resistible. Not many people want to talk about a faith that requires more of us then we are willing to give. That includes me. It’s a lot easier for me to resist the revolution when I surround myself with others who will acknowledge with me that there is no revolution, or if there is we are already a part of it, without making much change in our lives.

All that to say, I’m quite thankful for my community, they are leading me into the revolution whether I try to resist or not. Is your community doing that for you?

Become a lender, make a dream come true.

I just gave a loan to this lady, NANCY PEREZ TORRES.

You can click on Nancy’s picture to read more about her, but basically I had the great opportunity to join with 4 or more other people in supporting Nancy’s entrepenuership business in Mexico that is run by her with the help of her husband and sons.

This wasn’t a handout, it was a loan, one I except to receive paid back in full in about 6 months or more. There is no interest on the loan, and there is the slight risk that the loan won’t be paid back. I guess that’s a risk you take when your loaning money, seems to have worked for the banks and credit card companies. Seriously though, it’s amazing that I can loan money I have available to someone to help their dream come true.

Now for some explanation. Kiva is a new micro-financing organization that is harnessing the power of the of the internet to help bring the basic service of bank loans to many around the world that don’t currently have that service available to them.
Think for a moment what you would do if you lived in a place without banks. What would you do with your money? Imagine not having access to loans. Most couldn’t drive the car they have, live in the house they do, or have the job and college education they’ve received without being given a loan.

Kiva is not a charity, but it is a great opportunity to bring justice and basic dignity to many in the world who have dreams and have lacked the resources to fulfill them. Kiva also has had a 100% return on their loans to hundreds of entrepenuers.

I learned about micro-financing in college and thought it was a brilliant concept, but one that couldn’t be entered on the very grass roots level for your average person in the U.S. trying to do something good. Now, Kiva has made that possible.

So, stop sitting on that $1000 you got in the bank! Start giving out some loans!


“Without being lead like a child”

I met a homeless man the other night who really touched me and challenged my thinking. I don’t walk around downtown much in the evening, but last night we did and ran into a number of folks asking for money on the streets. It was quite cold last night, and I hope they were able to sleep well at some point.
Anyways, after giving away all the cash I had in my pocket we ran into yet another gentleman and we stopped to chat with him. His words stuck in my mind, I can’t remember word for word but he said:

“I just want to have some fun, like everybody else.”
“…something to put my mind at ease; without being too specific.”
“…without being lead like a child.”

Have you ever thought about the message it sends to a person when you, based solely on your impression of them, treat them as unable to care for themselves? What does it do to an adult’s self-esteem when, at a difficult time in their life, they are continually being “lead like a child” to meet their needs?
I do understand that people have a true concern that giving money to a person on the street might end up supporting thier drug or alcohol habits. I’m not advocating support of those activities. A wise women once told me, “If I was out on the street and down on my luck, I might want to have a drink too.”

I almost feel like it becomes like Jesus with the women caught in adultery. “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.” Here it is: Let the one who has never spent their money unwisely, be allowed to never give any of it away.

This holiday season I’d like to encourage you to give the gift of mutual respect to the people you encounter on the street. Get a large amount of $5 bills (or $20). Write a note, a note to yourself and others about being a wise steward of the money you spend and not to waste it on unnecessaries when so many in the world are in need. Write that personal note and make copies of it. Get some envelopes and put one note and one $5 Bill in each. Put a bunch of those envelopes in your wallet. Now, anytime you or anyone who asks you is in need of some money, give them (or you) an envelope and remember to read the note before deciding to spend the money.

If someone chooses to by alcohol with that $5, it was their choice. If someone chooses to by a latte at Starbuck’s with that $5, it was their choice also.

Nothing But Nets

(reposted from Mark Leon Goldberg at UNdispatch)

It’s not often that a story in Sports Illustrated can have a direct impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in sub-Saharan Africa. But with an 815 word column in April, writer Rick Reilly kicked off a grassroots campaign to do just that.

Reilly’s pitch was straightforward. Every thirty seconds, an African child dies from a malaria infection transmitted by a mosquito bite, making it the number-one killer of African children under five. So he implored his readers to send $10 donations to the United Nations Foundation to purchase mosquito nets to help protect families when most of the transmissions occur: at night when families are asleep.

The pitch was simple, and it worked. It really worked.

In a few short months, SI readers, little league teams, high school clubs and community groups began sending donations to the United Nations Foundation. Soon, some $1.2 million – much of it raised in $10 increments – had poured into UNF. As a result, some 120,000 insecticide treated bed nets were purchased.

The success of Reilly’s campaign was, quite literally, overwhelming. So to help organize the incipient movement, and collect and distribute the donations, the United Nations Foundation, in partnership with Sports Illustrated, the NBA, and the People of the United Methodist Church, established a non-profit to handle the donations and keep the momentum going. Nothing But Nets was born.

Here’s how it works: One net is durable enough to last as long as four years. The nets themselves cost about $7. A $10 donation covers the cost of the net, delivery, and installation. In some cases, parents and children may sleep under one net. Importantly, there are no overhead costs for Nothing But Nets – the United Nations Foundation pays for that.

The first nets were recently delivered in Nigeria. Reilly is traveling there to visit families and with staff from the World Health Organization and the Measles Initiative to check out how the nets are used.

In the meantime, you can click here to donate ten bucks.