Listen and help - Shawn Loughlin editorial
On Sunday, I saw a Christmas tree covered in women’s underwear and socks. It’s true. I was sitting right there at the Blyth United Church and I saw it with my own two eyes. There’s even a picture in this week’s Citizen to back me up on this.
The initiative began at the church with the goal of collecting undergarments and personal items (not that undergarments aren’t personal) for the Huron Women’s Shelter. Then, with the Christmas season upon us, it evolved into decorating a Christmas tree with these items. It’s not something you see every day, so it definitely has that eye-catching factor.
And while it’s fun to see a tree with underwear thrown all over it, the concept drives at a more fundamental shift in charity as it applies to those in need.
We all know the traditional ways to help those in need. Some drop a few coins in the Salvation Army kettle when they see one in a mall or their local grocery store. They bring canned goods and other non-perishable food items when there is a drive and they donate to causes when a friend or family member is doing a run, a walk or a bike ride (thanks again, everyone).
It was two years ago that The National Post published a video, which has since been watched millions of times by those all over the world, urging the generous among us to not donate canned goods to food banks, but to donate money instead.
Reporter Tristin Hopper wrote a humorous, but informative video urging people to donate money to local food banks as opposed to random cans from the pantry for a variety of reasons.
First, he talked about the food bank’s buying power. Whether it’s buying in bulk, buying what’s needed at the time, or the discount that comes with buying as a charity, the money you spend on a can in a traditional grocery store could be used four times over if it’s donated straight to a food bank.
That’s not to say, of course, that by donating a can of food that you’re a bad person. What Hopper is saying is that if you truly want to help those in need, donating money to the food bank would do more good than a canned food donation.
The same can be said for the socks and underwear tree at Blyth United Church. The common thread between the two, as I see it, is the shift in thinking in terms of giving.
If I asked you to donate to the Huron Women’s Shelter, underwear might not be the first place your mind goes. In fact, hopefully it isn’t the first place your mind goes.
But, after speaking with Pastor Hillary MacDonald or project lead Emily Phillips, the story makes sense. Many women who need the shelter, especially around the holidays, flee whatever situation they’re leaving behind in a hurry and need the essentials of life. And, because of the personal nature of the items, perhaps these women in need may be a bit reticent in telling others that they need new/clean underwear or socks.
So, I guess what I’m saying here is to listen to your charity of choice and know what they need. What would do the most good? What kind of donation would best help those you wish to help?
Have those conversations. Because, while it’s true that any donation is better than nothing (as Hopper explains in his video regarding canned donations) if the goal is to help those in need, doing your homework on how best to do that just seems like the right thing to do with the giving season upon us.