Friday, November 11, 2011

What Will You Do with the Old One?

Or Decluttering 301

I can't believe how long it is taking me to declutter! Of course, it might help if I didn't go off on rabbit trails. This morning I got online to get ideas about whether I could actually donate a somewhat raggedy blanket. What did I find but a controversy about donated clothing being sold to Africa. The websites I stumbled upon claim that we are putting African textile workers out of jobs. So I had to try to find more on this. Is it true? Which charities do this? I didn't find the answers, so I hope I'm not sending YOU off on any rabbit trails.

I did find a website (although it was a website in Australia) that said St. Vincent de Paul gives clothing to needy people and then sells the surplus in thrift shops. Oh, yes, I had forgotten. And their clothing donation bins are accessible here. I suppose I could get them to pick up other things, but for me, it's more convenient to donate my other stuff to Salvation Army, who sells their items at what I believe are fairly reasonable prices for today's thrift market, and who provide rehabilitation centers.

As I went back to contemplating the blanket, I remembered a woman I met through my local Freecycle who deals in dog rescue. So I emailed her, and she was grateful for the blanket.

But, looking for new homes for old items reminded me of an old story that my husband and I love. I would like to share it with you. I don't remember what book it came from, except that it was a book by Dr. Robert H. Schuller. I found someone quoting it again online. I hope it's a short enough quote not to break copyright as I post it here. But it is, after all, an old fable.

"There was a Chinese wife who said to her husband. 'I would like a new coat.'

Her husband said to her,’ What will you do with your old coat?' She said, 'I will make a bed cover out of it.'

He said, 'What will you do with your old bed cover?' She replied, ‘I will make pillowcases out of it.'

He said, ‘What will you do with the old pillowcases?' She said, ‘I will make new cleaning cloths with them.’

He said, 'What will you do with the old cleaning cloths?' She said, ‘I will tie them together and make a mop out of them.'

He said, 'What will you do with the old mop?' She said, ‘I will chop it up in little pieces, mix it with cement, and we will patch the holes in our cottage in the springtime.'

He said, 'All right. You may have a new coat.'"

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Going to Hell in a Handbasket - Not!

Last summer as my husband and I met my fellow alumni at Diary Queen to kick off the weekend of my 40th reunion, I told someone that when I was in high school I thought “the world was going to hell in a handbasket”. Afterward, I was kind of sorry I made that statement without having time to explain it.

So what did I mean that night at Dairy Queen? I meant that I turned out to be so very wrong! Although I already realized I had been wrong, I see it so clearly now in the happy, generous faces and the caring, responsible lives of my former classmates.

While I blamed the adults, not my fellow classmates - back in my youth, when I thought we were all pretty bad - nevertheless, I looked at all the trouble around me and thought we were all pretty much done for. Not that I thought it out in those words.

That attitude landed me in a super-strict, isolationist cult straight out of high school. No, we didn’t drink poisoned kool-aid, and you’ve probably never heard of it, but it existed, just as surely as I changed my name (although I like my current name, so we gotta’ respect it, even though I don’t expect those who knew me in my youth to use it).

Sure, some of my classmates drank, smoked, cussed, all things I thought were “bad”, because I’d been taught not to do them, and I listened, being a people pleaser and not wanting to deal with my Dad’s “Why did you do it?” Sure, some of my classmates played around; some got pregnant out of wedlock (a bigger deal socially in those days); and a few did things they later regretted. But I always knew I was no better than any of them, because I had been abused as a child (not by my own family - just an FYI) -- and I thought for years that it was my own fault. After my experience with the cult, I knew for sure that I was no better because, at the time I joined the cult, I treated my own parents poorly. I figured you couldn’t get much worse than treating your parents badly.

But here’s what I learned over the years. Life is not all about following the letter of the law in every minute particular, nor is it about what we’ve done in the past, however wild or wooly. It’s about where we are now and maybe where we are going. Many of the saints had wild and wooly youths. On top of that, even the saints did not always agree about what were the best things to be doing on this earth. And the saints in heaven are not saints because they never sinned, never had any faults, or never did anything they regretted. They are saints because they practiced virtue to an extraordinary degree…because they loved greatly.

And that is what I see in the lives of my former classmates. They are so full of love…love for their families, love for their fellow human beings in general, and love for their classmates, some of whom have kept in touch with one another a lot over the years.

I see my classmates spending themselves, caring sacrificially for a spouse or child who is ill. I see them surviving after a difficult death of a loved one, so they can be there for others. I see them respectfully helping people with disabilities. I see them going to jobs that help others...or going to jobs they don't like but going nonetheless. I see them dealing with tremendous heartaches of various kinds and still thinking of others. I see the love - the giving, caring love - and I am in awe! I am proud to be a part of this class.

Not everyone in the world is good...or at least, they aren't always doing good things, doing good to others. But there are so very many good people. Praise God, when I was in high school, I was so very wrong about one thing. The world may be filled with strife and hurt, but as long as we have so many loving people in the world, the world will never “go to hell in a handbasket”, because love comes from heaven.