Saturday, June 9, 2012

Stuff and Goodsense

       Shoes.  Top Ramen.  Notebooks.  Cell phones.
       Over the last few days of this week, students were moving out of the residential halls at the University of Denver.  A couple of years ago, the Sustainability Action Team in Student Life decided that we would collect a lot of the "throw-aways" that are part of move-out, and team up with local charities to put these "discards" to good use.  The photo above is the collection after a few days in just one of the halls.
       Pillows.  Plates.  Textbooks.  Laundry detergent.
       The variety and sheer bulk was astonishing.  Big things, like bookcases. Unopened packages of AA batteries.  An incredible variety of garments that memorialize some memorable (albeit annual) event.  Greeting cards with "Love you always!   XOXOXO!  Bruno".  On the one hand, those of us who were sorting the stuff ("Clothes for Goodwill over here.  Toiletries, here.  Cleaning supplies, here.  Food, here.") were in awe of (what we saw) as "waste".  On the other, we were grateful that the students brought it all to the "donations" room, rather than taking it to the big blue dumpsters outside.
       Flash drives.  Hats.  Desk lamps.  An over-sized martini glass.
       But we were engaged in a good thing.   The shelter report was that we ended up collecting 2,000 pounds of food alone!  We don't have the final weight of all of the other things that went to Goodwill or various shelters.  And, of course, the charities were ecstatic to receive all of this stuff.  And the message came home clearly to me -- especially at this Commencement time -- "we who have received so much have so much to give".  A different message might be:  "We have too much stuff!"  And that is true.  But those of us who have . . .  well what DO we have?  Stuff?  Intelligence?  Training?  Skills?  The gift of encouragement?  Material means?  Excess sweaters or socks?  Those of us who have have the opportunity to use that abundance to better the world.  How much can WE give out of our abundance?
       Half-a-jar of peanut butter.  Unopened shampoo.  Bookshelves.
       A single snow-ski.


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