Show a little damn gratitude, will ya?

Apparently beggars CAN be choosers!

Holiday cheer? A time to give? What’s up with charities this year? Has anyone noticed that everyone who’s asking for handouts this yuletide season has conditions? “Please drop off any unwrapped, newly purchased, non-age specific, genderless toys by December 15th.” Ok, seriously? This is getting ridiculous. I mean every year we try to go through the boys’ toy closets and make piles of good stuff that they’ve outgrown or no longer want to play with. We talk about how important it is to give things away and the boys have to struggle sometimes with wanting to keep stuff that they need to let go of. But they are learning valuable lessons about sharing, giving and helping those less fortunate.

Well, apparently no one wants anything even “gently” used this holiday season. I find that incredibly offensive. It’s not that I’m not willing to buy new gifts for those in need. It’s just that I think they should be grateful for used items as well. Has everyone lost their minds? I mean, the poor and downtrodden only want new items? What’s that about?

I mean, we’re hurting this year, like everyone around us. I’m shopping at resale stores and garage sales. My kids had a much scaled down version of Chanukah this year. But while it’s okay for me to scrounge and save, I should go to Target and shell out full retail for a brand new Barney-mobile for some nameless kid who only wants new toys this year? That’s more than absurd. It makes me just say, “Oh well, guess I just wont give anything.”

That cannot be the message charities are hoping to convey. But why then all the hubbub about “new” or “unopened” toys? My kids have a plethora of rummaged board games, some of which show serious signs of age. But we have just as much fun playing Monopoly with the hand-drawn “Park Place” card we scribbled in yellow marker over a random two of clubs, than anyone playing with the authentic printed version. Come on!

It reminds me of all the times I’ve attempted to remedy the hunger situation when I encounter it in my path. I’ve offered leftovers to people begging on the street. I’ve purchased a dozen bagels or donuts for some sign-carrying veteran asking for food. I’ve even handed over half a bag of groceries upon passing someone desperate off the freeway ramp in L.A. once. And do you know what each of those people did with my food? They threw it out. Because they didn’t want food. They wanted money, for booze or drugs or cigarettes or whatever. And yes, that soured me a bit on trying to help out. So now, I give to reputable organizations. I make tax-deductible contributions whenever I can and I try my best to ignore the sad souls who approach me and ask for aid. I’m sure it looks heartless and callous to my kids. But thrice burned…

It’s the same damn thing. People need to be encouraged to give. But to give what they can, which may not necessarily be ideal or perfect for the person they’re trying to help. People need to appreciate whatever they get. Am I the only one whose ever heard of the proverbial beggar who couldn’t be a chooser? Maybe it does make a better Christmas for a kid to get a brand new Star Wars Lego set. But when people are struggling to do that for their own kids, they’re not likely to do it for a stranger’s.

I’ve taught my children to be gracious and appreciative whenever anyone gives them anything. If they don’t like it, if they already have one, if it comes broken in two, they just smile, say thank you and offer a warm, grateful hug. Maybe we ought to consider teaching that to the myriad of non-profits out there who are only looking for perfectly packaged, officially licensed, unused goodies this Christmas.

A symmetry boggles over a snag.


  1. That is so true! And really, have you noticed the number of toys that are given that require batteries? These people are supposed to be so poor that they can’t put food on the table for their kid and you are giving them a toy that will Never work because the family can’t afford the batteries. What ever happened to the battery-less toys. I played with enough in my time. I know they must still be out there some where.

  2. Well, Skinny, those battery-less toys are made in China and shipped to India where they can’t afford batteries either. We get the battery operated ones because we have one thing they don’t have in India, a way to charge the batteries. I don’t mean plugging them in, I mean buying them on credit.

    I have encountered the same con-artists standing with cardboard “feed a hungry vet” signs at the freeway on ramp. I’m with Debra, I give to a reputable charity but I usually choose a food bank or shelter. After all, food is a priority to toys and although I could appreciate the look on a poor kid’s face when he or she gets a brand new toy on Christmas morning, I think I’d rather know the kid was fed first.

    My suggestion for these organizations is this: Do what some of these charities used to do, put people to work restoring used toys. Anyone remember that? You get the gratification of giving to the needy, the needy man or woman gets a job to earn some badly needed food money, and the poor kid gets a shiny new toy. Everybody gets a smile on their face.

  3. I really see both sides of this issue. I totally sympathize with the frustration of having perfectly serviceable goods to share, but having the offer declined because these things aren’t “new”. I would encourage you to find organizations that are able to use “pre-owned” toys, clothes and furnishings (they do exist, I promise!) because you are absolutely right that all of us need to practice sharing to overcome our natural tendency of selfish hoarding.
    On the other hand, I have worked for non-profit organizations, and you would not believe the condition of some of the donations we received–and we were expected to use them! Sometimes people insisted on giving us items that we truly had no use for (furniture that was too big for the small spaces we were trying to furnish, for example) which left us with the burden and expense of hauling it somewhere else. A wise minister once told me “Loving someone means giving them what they truly need” (which isn’t always what we want to give). A reputable charity is in the business of meeting needs and it is most helpful if we trust that charity to know what would truly meet the needs of the people they are serving.


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