Thursday, December 4, 2008


The members of one of my small groups recently challenged themselves to adopt members of the military who are serving in Iraq or Afghanistan and do not receive regular mail. Some friends of ours whose son just returned from his second tour of duty in Iraq provided the names.

When we were trying to figure out what to send, we found numerous lists of items on—of course—the Internet. The items looked reasonable, but basic: toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, hand sanitizer, hard candies, old magazines and paperbacks, and so forth.

At the same time, our church is doing a Christmas mission project for a homeless shelter. We are providing "gift bags" to men in the shelter. We were given a list of items we could provide. It was extremely similar to the list I was using to purchase items for the soldier.

This got me to thinking.

In the past I've participated in mission projects for nursing home residents. It's essentially the same list of items. Soldiers, homeless people, nursing home residents. People who are easily forgotten until it's a designated time to remember them.

Are these really the items they need? Or are they items that must be provided by someone as a matter of course?

Does my soldier appreciate cast-off paperbacks and magazines? Or does he look at them as someone just cleaning out their recycling pile? I've often wondered this about used clothing donations. Is cleaning out my closet really an act of charity that helps others, or is it a way to unclutter my house and feel good about myself?

Do these items actually make the recipients feel happy and loved? Or are there more creative, time-consuming, thoughtful—dare I say it—expensive things we could be doing instead? Things that would take a chunk, instead of a token, out of us?

I don't have the answers. But I do have a lot of questions.

No comments: