This is Part II of our third experiment for the book club. Read Part I here.
Just to recap, this quote sets the scene for the donation part of the experiment.
We had a huge pile of stuff to get rid of after Part I, so now I needed to figure out what to do with it. I like parameters, so I told myself I would make three calls to local organizations. A women's shelter, a homeless shelter, and a youth shelter. I left a message for the homeless shelter and reached representatives at the other two. They both provided me with lists of needs but it was mostly small items like cleaning supplies, dryer sheets, and food. I asked if they had anyone moving out in the near future, explained my downsizing adventure and described my pile of household items (which felt like it could supply three small apartments). They didn't have anyone moving out, so I thanked them for their time and promised to bring what I could. It was convenient for me because their needs were small things I probably wouldn't have attempted to sell anyway...so why not give it to a shelter? So far this experiment was turning out to be kind of fun, matching my stuff with places in need. It was exhilarating and motivating, I wanted to do another round one just to continue the fun.
Then the homeless shelter called back.
"Your timing is impeccable. We have a woman moving out in two weeks into an apartment and she has nothing. She will need furnishings, linens, pots and pans, dishes, toiletries and clothing."
Donating to a shelter was a step in the right direction, but I had yet to make a one-on-one connection with someone who was truly in need. Originally I had doubted if this possessions experiment would be able to happen because, "there can't really be that big of a need around here, can there? I live in Big Lake, Minnesota." I was doing my part and taking the stuff I didn't sell to somewhere other than Goodwill...but thought that would be the extent of it. Clearly God had something else in mind.
I set up a time for this woman to come to my home and take what she needed. I was brimming with anticipation of how satisfying it would be not only to get rid of stuff but to experience this "relational magic" as Jen called it. I pictured us becoming lifelong friends. I was feeling pretty darn good about myself at this point. Definitely ready to be blessed by my generosity.
Then the day arrived. As we loaded items into the woman's van she told us she had been living out of it for the last few years after she lost her house. I didn't get a ton of details about her story, but I made plenty of assumptions.
She took everything we had set out and went on her way.
I sat down on the couch after she left, utterly disappointed.
Zac: What's wrong?
Me: I'm not sure, I guess that was different than what I expected.
Zac: What did you expect?
Me: (tears forming) I don't know.
This is where the experiment changed from a lighthearted adventure to a sobering lesson.
It took me a couple of days to figure out what I was hoping for. As unrealistic as this is going to sound, if I'm being honest, here's what I wanted: I wanted her to show up and be overwhelmed by my generosity. I wanted her to pour her heart out to me about her story and past. I wanted a resume or pamphlet outlining what steps she's taking to make sure she doesn't end up in this situation again. I wanted to know she had a job, no addictions, was an upstanding citizen and was making a genuine effort to change. I wanted her to tell me how much she valued all my stuff and that she would take care of it and put it to good use.
None of that happened.
Here's what did happen...all the stuff went away and I found myself caring more about the future of my stuff than the woman inheriting it. Clearly this whole downsizing, purging, tiny house thing is not about me being awesome. I have such a long way to go.
I am bothered by the state of my heart right now. Christ calls us to care for the poor and homeless and He doesn't say we get to know the future of those gifts, He just says we are to give. I'm getting the impression this whole compassion for the less fortunate stuff is more about changing my heart than anything else. I don't think God needed me to give my possessions to that woman...I think He needed me to understand the depth of my privilege, the extent of my judgmental nature, and the reality that my heart truly is connected to the things I have spent my money on. This is about obedience.