Two summers after I graduated from high school, I was emotionally and mentally a mess. I didn’t have a job to keep me busy, I didn’t have classes to go to, and though they never meant for it to hurt like it did, my siblings would sometimes make off-the-cuff retorts, such as, “Well, at least I have a job.”
It was misery.
At that time, I had a friend who worked at Deseret Industries, a church-owned thrift store chain that happened to have a location near my hometown. She encouraged me to apply, so finally, out of desperation, I did. Within a few weeks, I got a phone call, an interview, and a brand new job. I was ecstatic.
I don’t think many people realize how personally important that was for me. Deseret Industries is a place where people with little to no work experience, little to no qualifications, oftentimes, a language barrier, and little to no resources can work to make money for themselves and receive free job training. It’s less of a job, we were told, and more of a program to get us to the careers we always dreamed of. We received areas to work in and job coaches to help us make goals and move forward. One of my job coaches implied one time that my employment at the DI was merely a way to help me pay for school. I don’t think he realized that it was the first real job I ever had and the first time in a long time that I had felt like I was making a valuable contribution. I felt needed and responsible for something. I felt important.
While working at the DI, I began to realize more fully how much of a blessing it is. All donated clothes and items are taken somewhere where they can do good. Clothes that don’t sell are given to countries where kids have hardly anything to call their own. People in need in the community can appeal to their bishops, who then walk them through the store and allow them to take what they need in exchange for volunteer service. Another aspect I did not see in the DI is that it relies on donations to keep people who need jobs employed and to train them to move on and do better things. It helps everybody involved.
That’s why my heart broke a little bit when I encouraged fellow Cache Valley residents to donate their clothing to the DI instead of posting it on what has quickly become the virtual black hole of the valley: Cache Valley Classifieds. Many times I have seen people post used clothes for dirt cheap, so cheap, in fact, that one would wonder what kind of good the money made off of said clothes would do. People literally try selling everything from the kitchen sink on CVC, and they often overprice their worthless items and rob themselves by how they price their valuable items.
I encouraged them to donate them, to do some good, and in return, I received a thread of defensive comments, 90% of which revolved around the idea that “if it’s not benefiting me, I’m not going to do it.” I have never been so disgusted in my neighbors, these people who save children from icy rivers and men from motorcycles stuck beneath flaming cars. They said that they aren’t living on the government and have to scrimp and save themselves, so they aren’t going to shop at the DI. They said that they want to make some money, so they aren’t going to donate to the DI. They told me that it’s none of my business who people make donations to. They told me that the DI is more expensive and does less good than all of these other places in the valley. They said things out of ignorance that made me feel angry and discouraged. The most hurtful comments were those that implied that I was being a prig for encouraging people to donate to the DI.
I am sensitive. I hate Internet confrontations. This one was probably one of the worst, especially because of the good I have personally been an eyewitness to and because of how many people assumed that I didn’t know what I was talking about, that the DI couldn’t possibly benefit anyone locally.
If it wasn’t for Deseret Industries, I would not have found the confidence or the skill set needed to get employment in other places. If it wasn’t for people donating, not I nor any other person in need could get job training that you literally can get in very few other places. It isn’t about how high the DI prices their items but about how important one item donated is. Not only does it help families in need, but individuals in need of confidence and work.
I’m posting this on my blog because my intentions were drowned out in a sea of assumption and judgement on Cache Valley Classifieds, a forum which I will no longer be using or posting on. Please donate what you have — don’t demand money for everything you could possibly own. Despite popular belief, chains like the DI are in DESPERATE need of donations. Their shelves may look stocked, but their donation bins are less and less so. Instead of supporting a petty group on Facebook that competes with every item-collecting charity in the valley, and where people stoop as low as selling free samples they get in the mail, I will choose to donate what I can and only resort to selling what I absolutely need to sell.
Know the good these organizations do. Don’t just cast judgment because you’re concerned with what you can get out of every possible situation. Do what helps and changes others. Stop doing what can barely help and never change you.