What – or who – gives?

By Maureen Pratt 

Catholic News Service

Living Well

My delight in earning a graduate degree in theology this spring has given way to a desire to downsize. I'm not planning to move but am eager to simplify my life and give many things away, good things that I'm sure others can use.

Only, I'm running into a bit of a problem.

Today, in quick succession, my options for charitable giving evaporated. The company I was going to schedule to pick up my items, including several pieces of furniture, has gone out of business in my area.

My usual Catholic charity is not able to enter my apartment nor use the building elevator, which would mean I would have to take everything "downstairs somewhere ..." but, where and how?

Another organization wasn't sure who could do what needed to be done. Yet another will take items, but only if I drive them to their location.

I have assured everyone I've talked with that I am fully vaccinated; there is an elevator in my building; and the items are in good condition, just too numerous and, in some cases, heavy for me to move myself – a perfectly pristine daybed, for example.

Each day, I receive unsolicited calls, emails and physical mail asking for donations of cash; but in this particular situation in our still-pandemic world, I am finding it impossible to be charitable! How strange; how unfortunate.

Of course, there are many reasons for organizations to be unable to operate as they once did. A labor shortage, COVID-19 regulations, general fear of spreading illness – these and other obstacles undoubtedly contribute to the seemingly frozen nature of charitable-donation retrievals.

Perhaps, too, there is a difficulty at the other end of the donation chain to sell or find appropriate places to give items to; we have only barely begun to open up.

But I suspect that the need in our communities has not frozen, nor has the desire to give been contained only to persons capable of hauling bags, boxes and daybeds downstairs so that they can be picked up.

There have to be many others like myself who want to part with usable items so that others can benefit, many others who are meeting the same resistance.

How long before the gap between desire to give and ability is closed?

As happens with obstacles on the way to determined donating, the setbacks I encountered today have only galvanized me to gather more items for giving and keep trying. I have hope that eventually all will find new homes and refuse to cede my momentum (although it might mean having bags and boxes underfoot for longer than I'd expected).

I will broaden my search and begin to call local parishes. Perhaps someone will know of individuals or families in need or other options, including help with transporting the items I have.

Perhaps the inability of larger organizations to operate normally can be compensated for by smaller, localized efforts – an intriguing possibility that could mark the start of new ways to fill close-by needs.

The trucks with charities' names on the sides were a presence in our streets that could encourage and inspire others to give. With the curtailment of pick-ups, awareness of charities doing such work is diminished, although need persists.

Bag by box, I hope that one day soon, we will be able to give freely again -- goods, good works and all -- and what we share will not only bring help, but healing in days and years to come.

Maureen Pratt writes for the Catholic News Service column "Living Well." Her website is www.maureenpratt.com