clean-up week

posted in: Arbitrary Thoughts, Politics | 0

I’m determined that this blog will not be a failure.  It just takes more time than I have and more thought than I often have the capacity for, so I have neglected to update.  But today I had a thought. 🙂

It’s clean-up week in Fargo.  I suppose it’s timed with spring cleaning and summer break for college students and maybe the fact that a glimpse of nice weather suddenly makes all of us Fargo-ans motivated to get moving and do something productive.  So it’s the week where you’re allowed to throw all your junk onto the street corner and at the end of the week, a big dump truck will come around and dispose of your unwanted couches, refrigerators, computer monitors, doors, windows, you-name-it.

As a wannabe artist, this could be the week of fulfilled dreams.  Someone’s junk could become my treasure, with just a little paint and some TLC, if I can get over my pride and sift through the trash on the corner while the cars pass by and wonder what I could possibly be looking for.

At this time last year, however, I was recently employed by Lutheran Social Services and had experienced one or two apartment set-ups and new arrivals.  It was then that I learned that this discarded “garbage” (couches, bookshelves, dressers, kitchen tables and chairs) could make huge differences in the lives of our clients.  These items cost money, which we all know is limited, and generous donations from the community could mean the difference in a client getting one more month’s rent so he or she could get one more month’s English training and potentially a better job.

I was frustrated by the waste last year as I passed by perfectly suitable tables and chairs (one of the most difficult and expensive things to find) that were simply tossed to the curb.  I didn’t do anything about it, of course.  I suggested we drive our truck around town and load up any useful items, but I think we all felt like collecting “garbage” to deliver to our clients just seemed wrong.

But is it really garbage?  We were buying their furniture at thrift stores, where most of this “garbage” could have been sold if the previous owner had just made a phone call and requested a pick-up.

So now it’s that time of year again, and it’s raining cats and dogs, and perfectly good discarded furniture is being destroyed on a curb while precious money is being spent on items that could have been donated.  I may no longer work for LSS, but I know that the need is far greater than the supply.

I read Isaiah 1 this morning and felt especially stung by these words:

“Stop doing wrong.
Learn to do right!
Seek justice,
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow.”

And what came to my mind?  Clean-up week.  And all the waste; all the thoughtless consumption; the “junk” that is tossed to the curb just because we were too lazy to put it in our cars and drive it to someone who might need it (or just make a call – did you know almost all thrift stores and social service agencies pick up donations??).  Are we really so selfish?  So thoughtless?

As a disclaimer, I certainly do not advocate donating items that are damaged.   I don’t think you should donate something that you would not use yourself.  In fact, I wish we could step out of our wealthy, entitled mindsets and buy new things for the less fortunate.  But when you get a new kitchen table, what do you do with the old one?  Do you just toss it to the curb?  Do you really need that $15 you get from selling it at a garage sale (I know some people do!)?

What if we all took the $30 I spend on ordering pizza every week and blessed someone less fortunate with something new?  What if we paid more than the thrift store was asking so they have the resources to provide free items when necessary?

And what if we took a good hard look at our “junk,” and considered that perhaps to the curb in the rain is not the best route?