Saturday, April 16, 2011

Bottle Drive

I just got back from 5 hours of bottle driving with my kids. SMELLY! For international friends (or those from provinces that don’t do this), this is the ultimate fundraiser for groups. Recyclables that require a deposit are collected from the neighbourhood and cashed in, the money going towards the various recreational groups.

So, post bottle drive, until I managed to shower, all I could think was I SMELL! I’m showered now, but I STILL think I smell and I know my VAN most certainly smells. I need it to warm up so I can leave the windows open now to clear that.

It is not uncommon here in our city, to see people of all walks carting their deposit worthy recyclables to the depot for a few bucks in return. It honestly really does add up! Drive downtown and you’ll see homeless people loading up shopping carts, rooting through trash looking for that stray coke can or juice container that someone may have thrown away. For me, it’s a few extra bucks for something special with the family, for recreational groups it is something to lower the cost or increase the accessibility of a program, for someone who is homeless or otherwise in a lower income range, it may be the next meal.

Growing up in church, we would pray for the homeless, pray for those less fortunate and the needy. But truly, I always wondered what was up with that? It was kind of like reciting the Lord’s Prayer every morning in school (yeah, I know that totally doesn’t happen now, but it was the norm in public schools when I was little). You include it just because it is the thing to include. I don’t think in all that time I actually ever witnessed anything beyond prayer. NOT knocking the prayer, but why don’t people see themselves as the answer to those prayers when they are praying for those less fortunate?

In a town we once lived, there was a lady who lived up the street from us. A kind lady who doted on her little dog and was forever walking him around the block on his leash. If she happened to see me in my yard (or on the flip, if she was in her yard and I was walking by with the kids) she’d want to visit. I never had issue with this and enjoyed our visits – I think she may have had some sort of cognitive disability as her social interactions seemed a little askew. Being so friendly, she was always quite aware of anything going on in the neighbourhood and had earned the nickname “The Neighbourhood News.” She was older and lived with a brother & sister in the home they grew up in. There were other siblings apparently who had moved far away once they were old enough to do so.

I’m not quite sure how it came up, but another elderly, dear neighbour friend shared with me this woman’s story; her father was negligent (alcoholism was involved), her mother was unable to care for all the children. This other lady said it was the other neighbours that took it upon themselves and for years, blessed this family with groceries every week. This family was cared for and essentially survived only by the kindness & generosity of others. Poverty in a neighbourhood one would never suspect.

I have read a fantastically amazing book by Jeannette Walls called “The Glass Castle”. It is a look at poverty, homelessness and growing up in circumstances most of us wouldn’t have thought existed. As Jeanette put it in an interview I watched online “We grew up aspiring to become poor white trash”.

Homelessness is not a choice, circumstances may find someone in a situation well beyond their ability to comprehend, let alone change. Poverty is real. Our ability to help and make a real significant difference in someone else’s life is also real.


  1. Every time I see someone going through the trash looking for bottles I always gather up the juice boxes inevitably in my car and give those to them-it's honest work, and I know how much it means for them.
    And last year upon returning my husbands garage hoard, one of the local 'pickers' helped me to unload, so I gave him 3 of my bags. It's not much to me but he earned that $40, and with dignity.

  2. i've been meaning to ask you if you've heard of/ read William Sloane Coffin. i don't necessarily agree with all of his theology, but the man had a brilliant mind and a heart for social justice through faith.

  3. That's fantastic Mojo! That was huge for that guy I'm sure!!

    Thanks quiver, I'll have to look him up!

  4. The Glass Castle is my favorite book of all time. I just read another one of Jeanette Wall's books Half Broke Horses which is about her maternal grandma- it's not as good as The Glass Castle but I still really enjoyed it.

  5. Heather MacLachlanApril 17, 2011 at 8:05 PM

    Hi Kim,

    I read The Glass Castle recently and also found it compelling.

    Here is a weblink that gives some more titles you will be interested in:

    Now that you are getting educated on international aid, I know you'll want to read the other side of the debate (i.e. why NOT to give to groups like Women for Women).

    I read Dead Aid last year - very depressing but illuminating. It led me to GiveWell, an organization that evalutates how efficient charities are with their money. (You can google their site.) Which changed how I think about giving! For example, I'll never donate to a "providing clean water" charity again.

    I found an eval of Women for Women on Charity Navigator:

    As you can see the eval at GiveWell (which has a more rigorous method) is even more negative:

    I've committed to giving to Women for Women for a year, so I'll see what I think based on my own experience and then decide whether or not to continue. I'm still glad you brought it to my attention, and I'm happy to support it. But in the spirit of raising awareness, I'd love to hear what you think about these dissenting voices!

  6. Thank you Heather! I will be checking out the sites you mention. Definitely there are some aid groups I avoid giving too - largely b/c their overhead is way greater than it needs to be and I'd much rather see more of my contribution going to where it is really needed. I've not dug deep into Women for Women beyond that it has been mentioned in multiple books I have recently read and I have seen a few interviews of Zainab Salbi (WfW founder) and her story/journey is fascinating.

    Have you read "Half the Sky" yet? I would love your take on it.

  7. I already follow thru GFC but if you need me to follow some other way just let me know. I am going to try & do reviews and had no idea that some companies look at FB numbers and Twitter so I have not promoted them as much as my GFC. I need help in FB the most with the other two being second. Anyway you can follow will be a great help! Thanks and let me know how I can help you, too!