give your best

Today was another day that needed a perpendicular space-time window in it. I mean, the sandwich was super tasty, the staff were kind to have saved my stainless steel straw for me from Wednesday, the errands needed to be run at some point (finding the belt for the navy pants while I was still wearing them was a highlight),

but I’d kinda wanted to think today. To think: to write. To think: to lay out my February. Maybe even to think for no especial purpose (gasp!). I did listen to an episode of On Being (thanks, Chris!), which helped without being the same.

There’s a piece of that podcast that struck me, but that I’m too tapped out to tackle now. Instead, I’m going to rant. Ranting is so much easier!

<start rant>

One of my errands was to stick my head in our church library. An office volunteer let me know a couple of weeks ago that someone had dropped off materials to donate to the library,
including some VHS tapes of popular children’s movies.

First. There’s a conversation to be had about purging the detritus of one’s household and dropping the whole kit and caboodle at the closest Goodwill or Salvation Army. The “sure, we can sell this” bar there is known to be low. Still, I feel that one should have made a good effort to include only items that are likely to be used as-is, not shoes separating from their soles, or blouses with holes in them that “someone might mend someday.” If you didn’t get to its repair, you who spent proverbial hard-earned cash on it, no one else is even remotely invested in it. Save Goodwill the cost overhead, and throw it out yourself.

Which brings me to Second, a particular wrinkle on cast-offs for churches.

There seems to be a popular sentiment that churches, as places where we meet God in community, are as delighted or more delighted than Goodwill to have any tangible object the giver wants to leave. This Is Not Accurate. What churches are (as their better selves) are places where persons serving in staff-like functions will, for the sake of relationship and community, frequently smile and nod as the person drops off the assortment of objects…
and then quietly get rid of the unasked-for.

I’ve never understood why folk drop their old stuff like this. Practically speaking, a church uses particular objects like staples, paper, copier toner, crayons, and so forth. To a less-frequent extent, churches need folding chairs, computers, books. And as good stewards, church-folk seek the best return on investment… which generally means purchasing the objects they need outright at the time they need them. A new set of well-chosen folding chairs can last 20 years or more. Your grandmother’s folding chairs from her estate are less likely to. Then the staffer or volunteer who burned time acquiring Grandma’s chairs is now on the hook for burning that time again… twice the resource used. (Time has value, even unpaid time! Why else would I be whining for an alternate dimension to write in?)

Perhaps you like the thought that, “Well, if they don’t need Grandma’s chairs, they can sell them and use the money!” But then, you could sell them and hand that money to the church. You don’t have time? Neither do the staff. And few of the volunteers look at Craigslisting as a source of entertainment.

The part that irritates me the most, though, is when folk leave behind obsolete things. Five-year-old computers are no longer useful for you, I’m sure. But they’re not useful at church, either. Back when television broadcasting was changing their signal from analog to digital, our church was offered impressive quantities of analog TVs. Friends, if they weren’t working at your house, they’re not working in the children’s wing, either.

Which brings me to the seed of today’s rant.

Sure, I picked up the donated materials, though I am not Goodwill. On a day like today, I’m not even good-willing. But as I glanced through the books, it was a better batch than many: currently popular Christian fiction and non-fiction authors, for the most part. (I still twitch from the batch that included the early works of Billy Graham and various novels from the 1970s. Recycle, recycle, recycle.)

But VHS tapes?! Who has a VHS player at this point?? Not our church, that’s for sure.

Seriously, people. The used bookstore won’t touch them. Even Goodwill can’t get rid of VHS tapes anymore.

If it’s used up, worn out or obsolete—or almost used up, worn out, or obsolete—It’s okay to throw it away. Really. When you’re giving things away, think about those things like the gifts they can be, and give good stuff. Then you bless everyone.

<end rant>

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