I’ve been making a minor contribution to a group called The Aunties. In Jackie’s words, this is what they do.
“Welcome to The Aunties – I’m Jackie. I’m the Aunty In Charge. If you’re curious about what I/we do, it is simply this. I am the interface between a number of community organisations, and a group of people called The Aunties whose primary focus is to provide the material needs for the people who use the services of those organisations. The organisations/people we support are: Te Rōopu O Te Whānau Te Rangimariē O Tamaki Makaūrau; The NZ Prostitute’s Collective; the emergency housing team of social workers for the Salvation Army; a youth justice worker and her clients; and an expanding number of women in the community who are referred to me from these organisations, and also from women’s refuges, and the Family Harm programme.”
“Charity” is a funny old thing and it brought to mind this poem by Connie Bensley.
Trouble has done her good,
trouble has stopped her trivializing everything,
giggling too much,
glittering after other people’s husbands.
Trouble has made her think;
taken her down a peg,
knocked the stuffing out of her.
Trouble has toned down the vulgarity.
Under the bruises she looks more deserving:
someone you’d be glad to throw a rope to,
somewhere to send your old blouses
or those wormy little windfalls.
CONNIE BENSLEY (1984)
This is a complex poem and raises some interesting issues like, is it a charitable act to give away old blouses or wormy windfalls? Are people in need of “charity” some how less deserving and therefore have to be grateful for your old cast offs? Do people in difficult circumstances need “taking down a peg or two”?
Chief Aunty Jackie sniffs every garment and discards it, if it has so much as a whiff of mustiness. Anything stained? Chuck it.
I don’t want to speak on her behalf but my observation of Jackie’s view is that it must be given with love in your heart and therefore it will naturally be clean and in good condition. There’s some shit “donated” out there I have to say. If you just want to get rid of something put it in the rubbish. But also the crap is far, far, far, far outweighed by loads of clean, ironed, lovely things definitely given with love.
Judgement comes in too I guess. She’s got no money but she is smoking, takes drugs, has “too many” kids, stays with a violent man etc etc. in the end, her business is none of my business if I want to give someone a bit of support. I don’t know the back story, I don’t know what is happening for that person. I totally admit to having these sanctimonious thoughts from time to time but I’m trying not to.
Choosing gifts to donate? Makes us feel good to see all those presents wrapped up? For little kids that works well I think. But…do we really know what that 14 year old teen wants? I think maybe at that age I would like a voucher to go out to the Boxing Day sales with my friends and choose something that is special to me. And yes that could be jeans with big rips in them because that happens to be cool right now.
Does anyone deserve less than the best we can do? And who decides what’s “best” for someone else? Who knows when any of us might be “taken down a peg.”
There will inevitably be the stories where someone attended the Mission Christmas lunch and had “plenty of money” or “stole” two presents or…. do people say this to justify not giving anything?
Actually once it’s wrapped up, I don’t care what the receiver does with it. I hope they like it or find it useful, or are pampered a bit by it, or their children’s eyes light up but I don’t have any expectations that they need to be “grateful”.
Who knows what we do and why?
He punched her in the face
At a party.
The people grabbed him by the arms,
He was reeling
Later they returned together,
Arms around each other.
She was smiling happily.
She was pregnant, and he’d promised
To marry her.
by Anna Swir
That all sounds a bit grim so here’s some Christmas cheer.
I baked a Christmas cake today and the whole house smells all cinnamon and brandy.
My favourite angel has the perfect grin. (I don’t tell the others she is my favorite though.) I bought her in The Netherlands from a “disability ” workshop. They only used the creator’s first name and I’ve always wondered why. Because you are disabled you just get a first name? I don’t get that. A friend asked me how I attach them. i used the Commando clear mini hooks that theoretically pull off cleanly afterwards.
Have a good week. FG