This is one of those times my non-consumer lifestyle has become so ingrained I thought I should share it with you.

A couple of weeks ago, my “Little Sister” mentioned that her dad was supposed to buy her some new shoes but he flaked so her mom was going to buy her some (her father doesn’t live with the family). I realized that I’d only seen her in one pair of shoes, and that it might be the only pair she owned. I decided to take her shoe shopping the following week, but then it occurred to me to do what I do with almost everything I need these days – put the word out. So I posted on Facebook that my Little Sister needed some shoes and if anyone had a pair of the proverbial Shoes Sitting in Your Closet that you Never Wear, please let me know if you want to get rid of them. Luckily, she wears a size 8 which I think is a very common size, because I got a huge response. Within a couple of hours, I had four people tell me they had shoes to give. The first person I managed to meet up with gave me a bag filled with this entire Shoe Wardrobe. She said it made her so sad to think of a 14-year-old girl having only one pair of shoes that she threw as many as she could part with into the bag.

Needless to say, Mari was thrilled with the unexpected shoe bonanza, and seemed almost embarrassed when she remarked that she could wear a different pair to school each day. She reached right for the flats, tried them on, and declared that they fit.  She was so happy, and it was so easy.

I’ll tell you more about Maricruz and what a great experience it’s been being a Big Sister in a future post. For now, I just wanted to write about how easy it is to give up buying new if you state your needs to your friend group or community, and how generous people can be, especially when they have a name or a face to attach to their donation. My friend might never have given up any of these shoes to Goodwill, but when she knew they were for a particular girl, she was happy to part with them.

It’s so easy to take things for granted. Having a roof over our head, clothes to wear, and plenty of food to eat is not a given for many people. I try to be grateful every single day. And I’m so thankful to have met Mari, she adds so much joy to my life. At 14, she’s been through more hardship than I have in my entire life, and yet she still retains such spirit and optimism about the world and her future in it. It’s a wonderful privilege to be able to introduce her to part of that world.

Please share your thoughts about donations or anything this post inspires in the Comments section. I’m particularly interested in showcasing organizations that match donors to specific needs so that people are more likely to share what they have.


  1. Susanna says

    I’ve noticed than I’m more likely to part with something if I know of a specific need and it’s something that’s easy to do (like the person is nearby or can pick up) than I am in bagging stuff up to take to resale shop. I dont’ know why but I’m more likely to throw stuff away than haul it somewhere.

    • Angela says

      Susanna – I think it’s the idea behind charities like Save the Children, where you get a picture and a name. It’s the same for me – I had “known” this family before I became a Big Sister because of what my friend told me about their situation, so I was motivated to ask friends for clothes to give them and also went grocery shopping a few times with them in mind.

      Thanks for commenting.

    • Angela says

      Hi Shelayna! thanks, and thanks for still reading the blog. I think of you all the time when I wear one of your sweaters and blouses and hope you’re still enjoying the stuff I gave you that looked so much better on you.

  2. Jennifer says

    I sometimes cook dinner with my Little Sister. She always asks to take home the leftovers. She’ll even put a second helping on her plate and then say that she’ll bring it home and eat it later. She *always* does that with dessert. At first this perturbed me. I think it’s a bit of a faux pas to ask to take home leftovers unless it is offered. Since I usually take leftovers to work the next day for lunch, this annoyed me a little at first. Then I realized that she probably doesn’t have a lot of food in her house and that our leftovers would supplement her daily “rations.” She’s only 8, but as the oldest of 5 kids I suspect she often does without so that her siblings can have. I was fortunate to grow up in a house where there was always enough food to eat, clothes to wear, and space for privacy. It’s incredibly hard for me to imagine what it must be like not to have enough food to eat, and it breaks my heart. Now, I don’t begrudge her anything.

    When the school year started up, I bought some school supplies for her. I took everything out of the packages and told her I had found some stuff lying around the house that I thought she could use. I wanted to buy her a backpack but I didn’t want to feel obligated to get her other 3 school-aged siblings backpacks and supplies as well. Big Brothers Big Sisters told me that this situation is common. If for some reason you want to donate something to the family but don’t want it to seem like charity from you, you can take it to BBBS and they will contact the family with “extra donations” that would fit their family’s needs. They also said they often get outside donations. In the end, my Little Sister and her siblings all got new backpacks because BBBS had gotten a large donation of new ones for a company.

    • Angela says

      Jennifer, Isn’t it sad when you realize some people have so little? I noticed that Mari would keep anything she didn’t finish, even the rest of a small bag of popcorn at the movies. It really teaches you that for a lot of people not wasting things is more of a necessity than a lifestyle choice.

      I’m so glad the family all got new backpacks. I think it’s important what you’re talking about, for people to not always have to think about getting charity. It’s an interesting topic.

      Thanks so much for sharing.

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