Beggars Can’t Be Choosers

I try to be a generous person. Usually, when I have something that has any value that I am replacing, I’m happy to give the old thing away either for free (usually) or at the same cost I paid to refurbish it (like, if I upped an old computers’ memory for $50 to make it more capable for whoever receives it, I would sell it for zero profit at $50). Melissa and I have been very blessed, and it’s just a small way that we can share our blessings with others instead of selling our old things on eBay to try and make some money.

Since we’re nerds and like to stay pretty cutting-edge with our technology as much as our finances allow, most of what we end up giving away is computer and electronic stuff. Old cell phones (excluding PDA phones) go to a battered women’s shelter that gives them to women in need. Old monitors, computers, and useful peripherals either go to Western Fairfax Christian Ministries or other local charities.

But occasionally we have other things to give away too. I’m in the process of buying a desk from a friend of mine which is much better suited for my work environment than the desks I had before, so I suddenly had two old desks that I didn’t need anymore. One of them was very old and beat-up, but still solid and perfectly useful (and perhaps even worth something, if it had been restored). The other was inexpensive and slightly beat up, but also perfectly usable. We were in a similar situation shortly after our wedding in 2005 when we received money from a relative to buy a couch, so we had a love-seat we’d been using as a couch to give away.

Apparently, however, nobody wants old-but-usable furniture. When we tried to give our love-seat away in 2005, the Salvation Army’s pickup service offered over the phone to take it . . . if we reupholstered it first (!?). Trying to find a home for our old desks, the local Salvation Army Thrift Store helpfully told us that they didn’t accept furniture donations (!?!?) and we should call the same 800-number that told us to reupholster our love-seat (!?!?!?). Western Fairfax Christian Ministries, to whom we have donated many smaller home items in the past, didn’t even answer the phone when Melissa called them (!?!?!?!?). They did have a recorded message listing their donation times, so we left part of our day yesterday open on our schedule to drop them off . . . then, when Melissa called yesterday morning, their recording had been changed and the times we had left open in our schedule weren’t donation times anymore (!?!?!?!?!?). And they still weren’t answering the phone (!?!?!?!?!?!?).

Needless to say, we ended up doing the same thing with my old desks that we had done in 2005 with our love-seat. The Fairfax County I-66 Transfer Station (i.e., the landfill) is always willing to accept furniture donations, and is open during reasonable hours, and doesn’t care a whit what you’re bringing them (provided it isn’t hazardous).

I hate throwing perfectly usable furniture in the county landfill, but we put forth a reasonable effort to make this donation to two different, well-known local charities who either refused to take them or made it extremely difficult to donate. Beggars can’t be choosers. If charities expect people to support them, they cannot make it difficult to do so. Most people won’t put even half the effort into this that we did; the Salvation Army and Western Fairfax Christian Ministries must make donating furniture to them as-easy or, dare I say, easier than taking an item to the dump. If they don’t, well, people will take the path of least resistance. Being kind and generous should not be rewarded with headache and hassle.

Scott Bradford is a writer and technologist who has been putting his opinions online since 1995. He believes in three inviolable human rights: life, liberty, and property. He is a Catholic Christian who worships the trinitarian God described in the Nicene Creed. Scott is a husband, nerd, pet lover, and AMC/Jeep enthusiast with a B.S. degree in public administration from George Mason University.