Would you like a receipt for your donation this morning?
A torn blanket, a broken lamp, a badly damaged chest of drawers were some items in better condition. That is what I discovered one morning as I drove up to my local Goodwill drop-off location piled by the drop-off dock.
I was downsizing. After giving the bulk of my stuff away to friends and selling a few other items to strangers, I was generously donating what remained to Goodwill Industries.
As you are aware, Goodwill Industries helps people with barriers to employment learn skills to find competitive employment. One of the ways they do this is by operating stores where used items that have been donated are sold.
At the risk of being considered a dumpster diver, I started poking through the pile. The items I discovered as I dug deeper were in even worse condition.
My first thought, I must admit was incredibly judgmental. How could people just leave junk here? It was obvious to me that it was stuff that they just couldn’t get rid of any other way…..
Oh wait! Wasn’t that what I was doing?
I had given my best away to my friends, sold some stuff to strangers, and now I was dumping off the stuff that nobody wanted.
I tried to justify in my mind that I was being incredibly generous. That what I was doing would help someone in their training to find competitive employment. Really? What kind of employment? What kind of skills?
I could see it now on their job application. “Past job experience: I learned how to identify junk and carry it to the dumpster.”
Was I really being generous? A simple definition of generosity that I like is:
Generosity: the willingness to give others something of value.
There is an old adage that says: “One Person’s junk is another Person’s treasure.”
Yes, I could say I was giving. But I would have to be honest, it was just junk. Yes, using some kind of metric what I was giving could be seen as valuable to someone. And yes, some benefit would result from my donation.
But I had definitely inflated the value of what I was giving to justify my actions.
As the clerk offered me a charitable giving receipt for my donation, I decided then and there to correctly measure what I was doing and minimize the philanthropic weight that I had put on my activity. Symbolically, as a first step toward this, I said, “No, thank you.”