I ran across some fascinating posts in the archives of another blog recently. The writers were bluntly critical of what is commonly referred to as charity crafting. The most interesting thing about them was that, with a couple of exceptions, I could totally understand why the writers felt the way they do, and though I might not agree with them, they still offered a lot of valuable food for thought. So I thought I'd share some of the comments here, following up with my own observations.
"As a kid, I was often on the receiving end of "charity" which is why I hate that damn word...There is nothing uglier than the sentiment of "they're poor, they shouldn't be picky" which I sure had enough of to last me a lifetime by the time I was 6."
If this isn't a reminder to us about putting quality at the top of the list with the things we donate, I don't know what is. I also really favor the term "service projects" as opposed to "charity." No wordplay will change the sentiment if it's not sincere, but I really don't consider things like bereavement items for infants or chemotherapy hats for cancer patients to be "charity" at all. Same goes for sending slippers or cool ties to soldiers. They're opportunities to serve fellow citizens who are going through a trying time and need things that aren't readily available except through volunteers. The more important issue is not what word we use to define it, but our approach to quality - and not donating anything that we wouldn't be proud to use ourselves.
"For a lot of people it's a cheap way to feel virtuous and charitable without having to really be so--hence the crocheted afgans for a family that can't possibly need them."
"My personal feel is that if your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And so you get folks sending frilly pink hats to soldiers, just because they 'can.' "
Good reminders to look very closely at what the recipients really need, and the specs that will make those items most useful. It requires some research and communication with the potential recipient, be it an individual, agency or other ogranization. It also requires the willingness to recognize that, as much as we like to think that a handmade blanket can solve everything, sometimes it's better to write a check or volunteer in other ways - like supporting political candidates who can have much broader influence than most of us.
"I am stoutly against the idea of charity knitting (or crocheting). Partly because of the way the donors feel compelled to talk about how very charitable they are because it's charity outof CRAP. Partly because I cannot imagine most of the CRAP is wanted by the given-to."
"I fall into the camp of folks that thinks charity ought to be personal and not broadcast."
Yep, there are some self-righteous crafters out there who are into public piety to a nauseating degree. But I'm sorry if anyone thinks they represent the majority, because I'm convinced they don't. I also think it's unfair to assume that if people share ideas and examples of their service projects on blogs or other websites, they're doing it simply to say "look at me." I know I love to scour other blogs for ideas and inspiration, and if people didn't "broadcast" their accomplishments, I'd be missing a lot of good information that will, I hope, end up really making a positive difference to someone.
"I don't do charity knitting myself, but I have respect for people who do if they do it *right*. Make items that the charity can actually use, to the charity's specs, and you're golden. Make acrylic afghan squares for someone who has no possible use for them, and you're a posturing schmuck."
Unflattering, stinging remarks about what so many of us love to do? Yeah. But why not take a moment to pause, check our approach, and redouble our efforts to make sure we're doing things right?!