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It's getting harder to do good

Mandy Drury
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I did a clean out of my closet recently. Many items were what I call "incentive clothes;" pants you either buy one size too small to have a goal to work towards or the clothes you used to fit into and can't throw out because that would admit defeat.

But I digress. I was thinking I would donate the clothes to a nearby residence for homeless young women and mothers. Normally I give stuff to the local thrift shop, but this seemed like a more defined and direct way to "help." However, to my surprise, the residence website said they don't accept clothes or bedding. They take pots and pans and old toys but not freshly-washed, hardly-used clothes. Similarly, it's become harder for restaurants to give away leftover food because of liability issues. What if a shelter resident got salmonella from old baked ziti? And I've even heard you shouldn't donate baby cribs made before 2010 or old car seats due to always-changing consumer safety rules.

But this made me wonder. With the exception of a monetary donation, when did it become so hard to give? Is the basic principle of charity being tied up in regulation and an over-reaching fear of germs? Happily, I found that many other places like Covenant House takes clothes, (after all, many of their kids arrive from the streets with nothing but the clothes they stand in). But it's sad how times have changed.

One last anecdote: I had a sealed jar of Vegemite confiscated at an Australian airport on the way back to the US. I considered it food not liquid, so didn't think the 100ml rule applied.Vegemite is booty so precious that a heated argument ensued between myself and the airport security guard. Incidentally, the nearby bin of seized items was largely made up of Vegemite jars surrendered by miserable Aussie expats going back offshore. After a back and forth, I indignantly asked if the guards take all that loot home for themselves. The guard said no. I then asked if they were going to give it to a homeless shelter? The answer again was no, everything would be trashed, incinerated, wasted. I'm sure many hungry kids would have loved my Vegemite.