Though frayed at the edges and sporting a splotch of lasagna on one corner, the towel changed my outlook – and my closets – forever.  

That day was my turn to deliver donations to Unity House, an apartment complex for women who had recently come through drug detox. Most were setting up homes from scratch and lacked basic supplies. It felt like Christmas morning instead of a July afternoon as they sorted, with cries of joy, through the clothes and dishes the church had given.

The faded blue towel wasn’t really a donation. It had ridden to church underneath a pan of lasagna for a fellowship dinner that day. Someone had brought it in by mistake.

"Mary," one of the women called, "here’s a towel for you."

Mary, a new resident at Unity House, dashed forward and took the towel with eager hands.

"Thank you," she said. "Things were so awful this morning. I wanted to take a shower, but I didn’t have a towel, and no one had one to spare." She caressed the towel as though it were made of gold thread instead of stained terrycloth.

Good stewardship

I thought with shame of my linen closet – so full that towels fell out on my head when I opened the door. Every closet in my house was the same, stuffed to overflowing. I had thought I was being a good steward to keep things in case I should ever need them again. But why should I stash things away when these women needed them right now?

I went home and cleaned out the linen closet. Then I moved on to my clothes closets and kitchen cabinets. Perfectly good items I hadn’t used in years came to light. Some of it I didn’t even recognize. I took three trips to get everything to Unity House.

When I finished, my closets were beautiful. Best of all, I exterminated my pack-rat tendencies forever. When I’m tempted to buy something because it’s on sale, I think of Mary and her joy over my accidental gift. The bargains usually find their way to Unity House instead of my closets.

God has blessed me abundantly. Now I know why: so I can share. Good stewardship doesn’t lie in stashing and saving, but in giving. Quite a big lesson from an old towel!

Stop stashing, start giving

Do you want to move your "stash" to the hands of people who need it? Here are possible places to donate:

  • homeless shelters
  • drug and alcohol detox centers
  • nursing homes
  • children’s shelters and foster homes (Those who "age out" of foster care and group homes at 18 often need household supplies.)
  • shelters for abused women and children

You can also check with local churches and volunteer groups to find out if they collect items for particular missions or groups with needs. Appropriate donations may include:

  • clothes, coats and shoes
  • household goods such as dishes, pots and pans
  • linens and blankets
  • toys
  • paper goods, such as toilet paper and feminine hygiene products
  • school supplies

Make sure that your donations are needed and wanted before dropping them off. Double-check that everything is clean and in good repair. Remember, you are giving a gift, not unloading junk!

Suzanne Jordan Brown is a grandmother of five.

© 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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