Sunday, September 25, 2005

A story of resurrection

In my never-ending effort to simplify and downsize, I've discovered something wonderful--freecycle. Freecycle is like a swap and trade, without the trade part. There are freecyle groups all over the internet, separated by geographic region. The premise is simple; if you have something to give away, you list it on freecyle as "offer." Looking for something? You tell the list by posting "wanted." The main rules are that the items are completely free and legal. It's a great way to give new life to old stuff.

One area of my life that could stand a huge degree of simplifying is my scrapbooking habit, oh 'scuse me, I mean, "hobby." This hobby, like many, seems to cause cancer-like growth in the corner, then closet, then entire room, that is devoted to storing and using supplies. Freecycle has been a great way for me to give new life to old scrapbooking magazines and idea books. I list those things and within an hour, ten people are asking to have them. It's a sad commentary on my life when I have made several such offers on freecycle as I go through my piles of stuff. Not too long ago, I made another such listing, and of course within the hour, they'd been snatched up.
A couple days after I listed those, I saw a post on my freecycle site; "wanted; household." The poster went on to say she and her kids had left a bad situation in another state, leaving everything behind. Due to my simplifying and freecycling, I didn't have anything to offer her.
I felt bad about that, as I realize it must take incredible courage for these women to take that step, and I feel strongly about helping in any way I can.

It's a funny thing in life. Just when you think there's nothing you can do about a situation, some serendipitous little chain of events allows you to look again and see that nothing is impossible. A day or two after seeing that post, I got an email from her, inquiring about the scrapbook magazines. Shortly after that, I was going through my closet yet again, when it hit me; I had this 20 year old 35mm SLR camera sitting there on the closet floor, fully outfitted with all the instruction books, a 75-150mm zoom and tele-extender and an external flash. Collecting dust in its case all these many years since going to Canon products. No one really wants an old film camera these days, not with everyone going digital. But this woman wanted scrapbook magazines. If she was interested in those, perhaps she'd left behind a camera as well. She had children with her. Maybe....

I emailed her back, expressing my regrets that I didn't have the magazines anymore, but offering up the old but still good camera set-up. She graciously accepted, gave me drop off information, then right after telling stories at Grounded Specialty Coffees, I made the drop off. She wasn't there when I stopped by, but I left them with the person who answered the door. She was staying in a transient neighborhood of the city, one that isn't far from the Place of Grace Catholic Worker food ministry house where I've spent time serving and telling stories. I felt just slightly out of place in the neighborhood, dressed as I was for work and driving my nice car. I'm so glad I've placed myself into situations, like serving at Place of Grace or spending time in mission in Kenya, that I can quickly pull back that comfortable curtain called "middle class" and move into acceptance.

Still, I wondered if she even got the camera. It would have been nice to present it in person. I didn't have to wait very long. I received an email a couple days later from her. "thanks so much, I got the camera. I love it now I can take pictures of my kids."

It seems like a small thing, when someone is fleeing a bad situation, to have something as frivolous as a camera to take photos of the kids. I'm glad that my camera, long collecting dust in my closet, has found new life taking photos of kids, kids who with their mother, are finding new life.

I challenge anyone reading this to look through those things from your past, things that no longer define you but you can't seem to let go, and give them new life for someone seeking a new life. Maybe it's frivolous, but when you're looking for the absolute basics, a bit of frivolity can be the touchpoint that tells you it will get better.


At 3:18 PM, Blogger deene said...

I don't want the book, but I'm glad I ran across this post as I just stopped in to read the 2 peas borad as I clean out my garage. Anyway, ran across a bunch of scrap stuff too and thought, I bet 2 peas knows what I can do with this!!! Thans for the post. I'm checking into donating it all somewhere!
peadeesou on 2peas

At 4:12 PM, Blogger Beth said...

I am in the process of purging my scrap stuff. I have a couple of cameras that need new homes. I was going to "freecycle" them too, but I think taking them over to the battered women and childrens shelter is a much better idea. Maybe I could offer a free scrap class if anybodies interested too. So glad I read your blog today.

At 7:32 PM, Blogger Colleen S. said...

Being a middle school teacher has given me the opportunity to meet children from all walks of life. Most recently, I was introduced to a child whose mother and siblings left an abusive husband/father. My heart ached for him as he struggled to belong. You have given me the idea to donate to our Hope Center. Perhaps I can help a family- even just a little bit- feel special as they are trying to start a fresh new life. Thank you.

At 10:33 AM, Blogger Bay in TN said...

I'm all signed up to give a bunch of stuff to a Club Scrap charitable effort for Katrina relief, but I still have stacks of things (mostly from goodie boxes) to give to *someone*. Thanks for the inspiration, Gwyn!!!! You rock. :D

At 1:29 PM, Blogger Helena said...

Great story! That's cool that you were able to help her out--it's not something that she would have thought of as a "need," but it could turn out to be very meaningful.

At 11:34 AM, Anonymous Molly said...

I love this post, Gwyn... I, too, am a freecycle devotee (always givin', never receivin') and love thinking about what new life will be brought to the things I no longer need.


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