This is why I love blogging...You guys make me think. You don't always make me agree--and I'm still not entirely buying the idea that an unwrapped toy is an unwelcome toy, for reasons I'll discuss below--but you do bring up important points. I'd assumed that a stuffed animal could be adequately cleaned, for instance, and maybe that's not the case. And I'd assumed that a charity could just toss (or use for some other purpose) anything that doesn't meet minimum standards--like a bear with missing fur. But again, maybe that would be too much work, for too little benefit.
Nor am I suggesting that nobody should give new and unwrapped. Just that allowing like-new stuff to be donated would open the giving up to everyone, not just those who can afford to add another couple of toys to their already-taxed holiday budgets.
Maybe it's a matter of perspective? Let me be clearer about mine: Every single year, some percentage of the presents I give my kids are used and unwrapped (until I wrap them). I could never afford eight nights of Chanukah otherwise! This year, for instance, they will each be receiving some cute shirts I found for them at Goodwill. (Several of 'em each, actually. Because they cost only $1.50, I can give them a nice little bag full of cool clothes for half the price of a single Gap t-shirt.) And they will each be receiving a little stack of books I found at the library book sales for a quarter apiece--again, they'll get a stack, and I'll have spent maybe a whole dollar or two! Win-win. And they will probably each receive a used game--Em for her DS, N for his Playstation 2*--that I get at GameStop. Each game will cost under $15; otherwise, I won't get them.
But here's the thing: I don't feel like this is something shameful. I am thrilled to be able to afford to give these things to them, and they will be thrilled to get them. Because they've never been told that there's anything wrong with something that's been used. I'm not even sure they realize that the stuff is used...I mean, I'm sure Em knows the difference, but I don't think she attaches any meaning to that difference. Maybe I'm kidding myself, but I've never seen any evidence to the contrary.
Now, all of this is just to provide you with my perspective, as I said. I am very aware that there's a difference between giving to my own kids, and giving to someone else's. I have a list of more than 15 kids I need to get presents for this season--there's a full slate of birthdays AND holidays--and not one of them is going to get a used library book--because I, knowing what's expected socially, would be embarrassed to do so. So maybe that's how I should be thinking about this charitable giving thing. That I should be embarrassed to give someone else's kid a used toy--whether that person is someone I know or not. But that bumps up against the fact that I actually don't think it IS embarrassing...or at least I don't think it's wrong. Or maybe I should say that at least I don't think it should be wrong.
And here's one more twist before I shut up: As Hilary pointed out in my last post, it's not just that there are these opportunities to give, and if I don't have it to give, that's OK, I can just walk away, lalala. It's that there is all this pressure to give. Everywhere you go, there's someone with a hand extended right now. You get looks when you don't give. You get attitude. (Or you feel guilty and you perceive attitude. Probably half and half.) Plus, not giving feels bad. It feels mean. And, worse, I want to give. But they don't want what I have to give. And therein lies the problem.
I'll deal with it like I have every year. I will donate clothes to those charities I feel comfortable giving to, and I will Freecycle the toys and stuffed animals. And I will try not to feel judged when the plan to have "the whole troop participate" in the stuffed animal drive goes awry because of me, just like I try not to feel mean when I don't let Em go Christmas caroling with her troop either. (Aaaaaand, it's back! The Scrooginess is in full swing now!)
*While the truth is that these particular items were purchased for the kids by other family members rather than by us, I made a point of being specific here so that you'd understand that my kids have no dearth of the high-tech and trendy stuff that is out there. And sometimes those items are bought by Baroy and myself. And yes, this year for the holidays, my kids will get new things, too. A nice little selection of new things. (N is going to FLIP for this ride-on toy, which is his Big Present. He'll also love the new-in-bag Spongebob Squarepants comforter I got for him. And Em is getting a gorgeous, very grown-up Star of David necklace that she picked out and a brand-new Hairspray DVD, because she is INSANE for that show and that movie. And that's only a sampling.) My point is, it's the used stuff that will allow me to buy them some new things, too, and still have something to give them every night. No, that's not right. My point is, it doesn't matter that some of what I'm giving them is used. They're all gifts. It's all good. Or maybe not.