There’s a TV commercial for a credit card company that ends with the question, “What’s in your wallet?” Today I pose a similar question, “Whose clothes are in your closet?”
You might answer, “Mine, of course.” Or, “My spouse’s and mine.” But listen to what St. Ambrose said seventeen centuries ago. If you have extra possessions (like clothes), you are supposed to give them to the poor. In doing so, he said, “You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor. You are handing over to them what is theirs.” So whose clothes are in your closet? I suspect some of your clothes (like some of the clothes in my closet) belong to the poor, that is, to individuals who are seriously struggling economically.
I think of St. Ambrose’s quote every time I can’t find something in my closet because it’s bulging with too many clothes. Or the drawers in my dresser won’t close right because they’re stuffed with stuff! It’s a good practice to go through our clothes on a regular basis. If we haven’t worn certain items in a year, or they no longer fit, or we’re simply tired of some things (yet they are in good condition), then for heaven’s sake clean them, pack them up, and take them to your local thrift store or shelter. They aren’t yours!
I’m sure most of you reading this blog already do this. Donating to thrift stores (and buying from thrift stores) is not only generous and frugal, it’s one more way to recycle goods rather than throw them into a landfill. Some families also exchange used clothing regularly. When I was growing up we sometimes had big family gatherings. My mother and aunts often exchanged children’s clothing with each other. Wise women. They were recycling without calling it that! At a recent family gathering I saw my nieces (all young moms) continuing this venerable tradition.
Our Christian faith gives us ample motivation for sharing the goods we have. St. John writes, “If someone who has the riches of this world sees his brother or sister in need and closes his heart to them, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 Jn. 3:17). That’s another good question. And I love what the British writer G. K. Chesterton wrote: “There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.” I’m still working on that second way!
Does anything here resonate with or contradict your personal experience?