Sunday, September 27, 2009

Thank You, Ms Cathy

A stoutly-built, middle-aged woman was offerings for sale several tables of books, games and other useful things from her career teaching kindergartners. "I have been promoted to teaching other teachers," Ms. Cathy explained (...when asked, she said "Just Ms Cathy"...), and therefore needed to clear out her stock of classroom materials. It was late in the day, so she was letting things go at unbelievable prices; "I don't want to store these," she said.

We were happy to be helpful. Our friend and real state agent Charlene had been showing houses to Kris and I, and the day (however fruitful) was getting long.

Ms Cathy's stack of children's board games had caught my eye, as we slowly drove through a West Seattle/Burien neighborhood; by general acclimation, we pulled over for a break.
It seems odd that teachers have to supply a lot of their own equipment. We don't ask firemen to supply their own hoses, or policemen to provide their own sirens. But when it comes to educating children, our priorities are different; teachers need to supply boxes of books and other materials. That's just the way it is in our country, I guess.
As we picked through the materials, I thought I'd put in a pitch for the thrift store where I volunteer. Perhaps in the future she'd be looking for more stuff? I suggested, We stock a lot of children's books there, and we're always happy when teachers come looking for more early readers, Magic Treehouse, or whatever. Ms. Cathy replied that she wanted whatever didn't sell to go to a good cause, like a preschool or a thrift store. However since it was Sunday, a lot of the donation facilities were scanty. I volunteered to take whatever would fit in my trunk, and we had a good time filling it up with useful, resellable goods for educating and amusing children.
Donating resellable items to thriftstores, and purchasing them there, is an efficient form of sharing our goods. Anything bought secondhand not only saves you money, it always helps save our environment, since any production cost (e.g. carbon) is already paid for during its 1st use; subsequent uses are basically cost-free from an environmental standpoint (less a minor restocking fee.)

It's also efficient in that it saves money for our schools; I can't tell you how many times teachers have bought stacks of books from us at $1 each that would retail new for $4 and up.

A third way in which cycling these materials through thriftstores can be efficient is in changing the attitudes of our children toward where you get things. Too often it seems that the most important part of a gift is whether it comes New-In-Box, wrapped in massive packing that confirms that it is not only an authentically licensed version of some large corporation's intellectual property, but also that it had been made and packaged on another continent and shipped here at great energy expense. If you can think of a way of making any equivalently fun toy or book from a thriftstore seem as wonderful as its younger and pricier cousin, you may be installing thrift and environmental consciousness at the same time
By pure coincidence, this week's Change the World Wednesday Challenge is to "write about ways that we can get kids involved in an Eco-friendly lifestyle."

Ms. Cathy's donation suggests that perhaps a place to start is by checking with a local school as to their needs for classroom equipment, and their openness to getting some of it at a thrift store. I state without fear of contradiction that most teachers would be very open to any parent that can help them get books and supplies for less, and if this helps re-use materials, so much the better!

It might be helpful to involve your children in the process. If you're looking for school items, let your children know; they may spot things you'd miss and surely they'd enjoy being part of the process. (There's no time to early to develop the love of spotting a bargain!)

Another step would be to encouraging children to work the other side of the Reuse Cycle by donating items they have outgrown to your favorite local thrift. Children outgrow books, and you might encourage them to do donate the books they've outgrown by letting them shop the store after donating. Some children will swiftly notice that their dollar goes way farther at a thrift. You can add the extra lesson about the environment yourself, and it won't hurt for them to learn how to evaluate a used item for quality.

At the very least, we can all teach children that we don't throw away usable things; what we cant' sell, we give away - to a friend, family member or a thrift store.

It was a fine ending to a good day to have a trunkful of stuff that on Monday will see a second life at no extra environmental cost. For her fine donation, and excellent example to us all, I say Thank You Ms Cathy!

1 comment:

Mel said...

Great job! I do enjoy (and share) your thrift store philosophy! :) ...Now, if we could only teach children that carrots come from the GROUND and not from the STORE. :) Baby steps... :)