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Our excess can help the needy

Published September 07. 2013 09:00AM

In church last week, the priest gave a sermon on "want versus need."

His main point was that we confuse the two…that we buy and buy what we want, telling ourselves we need it.

He challenged us to stop needless spending and use the money instead to help the many people in the community who don't have enough to eat. He suggested we bring food to a neighboring food pantry, not once, but often.

I know they say the economy is improving but we must not be seeing much of it in our communities because food banks keep getting more and more requests for assistance. The priest was right to encourage those who can help to do so.

But I'm glad my husband wasn't in church to hear how we all spend too much, claiming we need it.

I think David's middle name is "I don't need it."

I have seen him look longingly at something then walk away, proclaiming "I don't need it." He does that with everything from clothes and household things to computers and hobby stuff.

Married to him for 3 years, I'm familiar with his personal philosophy: Only buy what you need and you really don't need much.

It wasn't a problem until I tried to buy him a nifty birthday present as he celebrated his big milestone birthday.

I know he needs a new kayak. His has a broken skeg that makes paddling in wind and open water a challenge. The kayak also needs a new seat and quite frankly, isn't worth putting that kind of money into it.

The biggest problem is the kayak's weight. At 70 pounds, it's hard to carry. When I try to help, it hurts my painful back.

I'm not sure if I want him to have a new kayak for my sake or his. But a kayak isn't something someone can pick out for you. You have to try it for fit and suitability.

David was impressed to see the new kayaks weigh 32 to 39 pounds of pure pleasure. He agreed it would be a big improvement over his old one.

Then he frustrated me by walking away, saying "I don't need it. I have one."

Finally I gave up on the kayak idea and decided to buy him a small camera he could carry in his shirt pocket. I saw him looking wistfully at the big zoom of a very inexpensive model and said I was going to buy it for his birthday.

"No, I already have a camera," he insisted. But he doesn't lug his big camera and separate lenses on walks we take. The wall photos I've been waiting for never materialize. With the small camera, I figured he would use it more.

A month has gone by and we have yet to agree on a birthday present that doesn't fall into the "I don't need it" category. For him, everything fits his "don't need it" criteria.

I probably wouldn't spend a dime if I only bought what I need. Dave is right. We don't truly need much.

When I went shopping for shoes with my friend Kay, I pointed out my everyday shoes had a hole in each shoe and had stretched out so much they were rubbing the skin off my foot. Definitely a case of need. And a big sale proved to be the perfect time to buy. But that's one of the very rare times I bought from need, not want.

I recently did a story on Bobbi Sue, a woman who started a new county wide charity that fills a great need.

She says she looked around her home and decided she had too much of everything - too many towels jamming the linen closet, too much kitchen stuff jamming her drawers, too many things cluttering her house.

"I counted nine spatulas in one drawer," she says. "I think there are two kinds of people around here - those who have too much and those who have next to nothing."

She decided to clean out her house, giving all the excess to the needy. Then her friends thought it was a good idea so they did the same thing.

From there, the idea just grew after she placed a notice on Craig's list asking for things that could be recycled for those in need.

After two years, she fills six storage units with recycled clothes and home goods. Now, this good Samaritan takes calls from churches and other groups with poor clients who need help. She says she averages about three calls a day.

"I had a woman come in today who broke down crying when she was given her choice of kitchen ware. Another woman cried with joy when she was given a bed. She's been sleeping on a sofa for a long time."

Those of us with so much don't realize there are others who would regard a recycled pot as a luxury.

Bobbi Sue is right. We should all rid our homes of excess by donating it to those in need.

Even David, with his Spartan buying habits, had to make three trips to Habitat for Humanity when he decided to rid his home of excess.

Those of us with too much can be a blessing to others who have next to nothing.

And, truth be told, most of us have too much.

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