From Chris: This is a guest post from Ken Nussbaum for Generous Tuesday.
Last December, I came home from work to find my wife putting together a box of things to give to a family she knew. Now, one of the things that I love most about my wife is that this wasn’t the first or even the second time that this has happened. (One time, I stopped by her work after a trip to Costco only to have her run out with a box and take half of our groceries to give away.) I talk about generosity and helping the poor; she pays no attention and just does it.
They had a child a bit older than my older son, so she included a few toys to make sure that the little boy had packages to open on Christmas Day. I was only half paying attention until I noticed that she had grabbed an unopened box housing three toy cars. They were not just simple Matchbox cars but a limited edition set from the first Cars movie (including a nearly impossible-to-find Doc Hudson) that I had purchased for my son (ok — and for me) on eBay.
I was a little angry at this and tried to convince her to give away some of my son’s other cars. She calmly told me to stop being selfish and that she was not going to give away a few nicked and damaged cars just so our son could have a new car that he would not appreciate and did not need.
This exchanged forced me to start thinking through one of the great challenges to our modern idea of generosity. We love to give away things, especially to help those that are in need, but how often do we use these opportunities as a way to dispose of our excess in a way that alleviates our guilt at having so much excess to begin with?
Or, to put it another way, how many of us, when presented with an opportunity to donate clothes or toys or food reach into our closets and pull out our best?
Do I mean that giving your old clothes to the Salvation Army or throwing a Garage Sale 4 Orphans featuring your older toys and household items is a bad thing? Of course not! Is it better than nothing for these children (and adults, too) to wear clothes that are old, used, and had been cast aside? Clearly, the answer is yes.
But are we regarding those in need like we would our friends? Are we truly offering dignity to the least of these?
It is not my intention to demean the donations that we give to resale stores, fundraising garage sales and the like, but the reality is that we are giving away things that are second-best to us. How would it look if instead, we kept our old things and gave away the new? I wonder if it would change both our personal purchasing habits as well as how we regarded those we were giving them to.
Are you willing to give away your best this Christmas?