Last week I stole every one of my son’s clothes.
Fresh from the dryer, I secreted them away. Folded neatly and stacked in my closet, I hid as much of his wardrobe as I could lay hands on. Then I waited. I waited for the sweet words of “Mom, do you know where all my clothes are?”
You may think this is strange. But frankly, I was tired of it. I was tired of finding laundry mildewing in the washer after five days of forgotten-ness. I knew at almost 12 years old, he is fully capable of putting clothes in the washer, moving them to the dryer and putting them away. Yet it wasn’t happening.
Despite all my training and mentoring, my assistance and guidance, laundry wasn’t getting done. I knew I had to resort to covert operations to make my point. So when the sweet words came up about missing laundry, I had my reply ready.
“My thrift shop is now open for business in my closet. You can buy back any item you want, $1 each,” I said. “Oh and by the way, anything not purchased by the end of the month is going to support my new project Garage Sale for Orphans to help the poor in Haiti with Help One Now’s organization.”
Cue the raging pre-teen music.
Now rewind the story back to January when I visited orphans in Haiti. Many children were wearing clothes that were two sizes too small, or that were hand-me-downs of hand-me-downs. I saw a boy wearing women’s shoes with his feet hanging off the back. I knew it was because he had no other choice. Some children simply did not have clothes at all. In Tent City, where 20,000 survivors of the earthquake three years prior still live under tarps, there were kids wearing zero. I witnessed one pre-teen girl lavishly washing her shoes outside of a tent. Good shoes and nice clothes were a prized possession.
So when I saw that our material goods were creating more frustration than joy, I knew it was time for a teachable moment. If he didn’t learn that our things were gifts and that we had to be good stewards of them, he would never get it later in life. As Americans, we do have access to a lot of stuff. But I wanted him to know deeply that things are a privilege and more isn’t always better.
After he calmed down, he realized the Thrift Shop was a good idea. He began getting into the spirit of things by negotiating T-shirts as a two-for-one special. I knew he was starting to get the idea when he said, “Mom, here are some things that I don’t need and think you should sell for the orphans.”
Will my son now do laundry forever and ever? Who knows. But I do know that the Thrift Shop helped my son see that sometimes too much stuff gets in the way. To be reminded that life is about a balance of being good stewards and about caring for others too. Sometimes more joy can be found in giving things away. And sometimes doing your laundry.
If you want to find out how a simple thing like a Garage Sale for Orphans can make a difference -- Meet Naiderson and how generosity changed his life. Or visit http://www.helponenow.org.