Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rags or riches?

Sometimes things come out of nowhere, smack me in the face and strip my soul bare. It happened recently when I read two news stories.
One was about “kiddie couture” with Gucci becoming the latest designer making thousand-dollar clothes for children younger than 12. The second was Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe banning the importing and selling of donated “second-hand underwear.”
It’s pretty easy for me to feel outrage over both. The hard part is looking at myself and seeing the same hypocrisy.

Children at a displaced persons camp in Uganda.
This is a confession. I am a horrible shopaholic. I cannot resist the allure of sales, and every time I need to go out of town, I have to buy new clothes. Well, I don’t have to buy them, as you would see if you peeked into my closets and clothes drawers.
I have been to Zimbabwe three times. Naked children or a child wearing the thinnest shreds of clothing is not unusual. I have seen a lot more of the poverty in this world than 3-year-olds with $2,000 coats, and yet I still spend more than I give away.
Those two stories sent me off into a spiral of pictures flashing through my mind. Always it is the children that break your heart.
I understand that second-hand clothes could be humiliating and thoughtless. But I have seen little boys and girls naked and dirty in a displaced camp in Uganda, in the garbage heap in the Philippines, begging on the streets of Haiti.
Once those pictures are in your mind, you really can’t do much to escape them.
There are as many ways of being kind and generous as there are people in the world who need kindness and generosity. I know The United Methodist Church is working every day in millions of places, and I can trust them to make my dollars multiply. I know people at the United Methodist Committee on Relief that get up every day, look into the abyss and finds ways to pull hands out.
I am far from qualified to preach or even suggest how someone else might do good in the world. Maybe second-hand clothing is not the best thing to give. I am hoping and praying that the next time I feel myself falling into the rabbit hole and rushing to the mall for a sale, one of those pictures will pop up.

Charity really does start at home.