Story 14/24: I didn’t realize growing up that we were poor. I suppose it never occurred to me. I’m from a large family of eight kids, so of course, the dollar was stretched to capacity. Because I didn’t know different, where I got my clothes didn’t bother me. If they weren’t passed down or sewn by my mom, they’d show up in a big cardboard box on the front porch.
Sometimes my parents would take us to a large store that had everything from furniture to shoes—it was like JcPenney’s, except it wasn’t a department store. We’d shop at the Deseret Industries aka the D.I., which is a thrift store kind of like the Salvation Army but put on by Mormons.
There was something special about having the opportunity to choose the clothes you wanted to wear. At the D.I. the possibilities were endless because of how inexpensive everything was. I didn’t have to settle for whatever came in a box set by my front steps, no matter what size was inside. I could try things on before I took them home. I’m not bashing on the kind people who gathered clothes together and anonymously gave them to our family. I’m grateful to them. However, there’s a dignity to being able to choose what you want instead of having to settle for what you’re given.
Every Christmas season, I think about my childhood—I don’t remember being poor. Instead, I remember specific instances where I was able to go through racks of clothes at a store and pick out what I liked. I remember the magic of having choices.
Twice a year I make my kids and husband go through their closet and take out clothes that don’t fit or anything they haven’t worn for six months. We donate them. I wanted to write this post to give a different perspective on the idea of giving. There are times when all people can afford to do is to accept charity, and there are times when people can purchase their own clothes, so why not help them out? Think of that sizeable plastic bag stuffed with your gently used clothes and shoes as being another of Santa’s gift sacks, brimming with acceptance, dignity, and hope.