Being where we are and doing what we do means we get to see a lot of "acts of charity". Either as the recipients or the conduits.
In this use of the word-- "charity" often means giving to "less fortunates". People that may not have as much as you have. Often, this "charity" comes in the form of used items.
Some of my friends and I often joke about "missionary piety". Living like church mice. "Oh, yes... I do suck on corn cobs for protein. That's all we have here on the mission field. We use grass to brush our teeth..." You get the idea.
But, sometimes I think people do prefer to think of missionaries--or the poor--as having no dignity because of often being in need. Maybe that doesn't make sense. Here are some examples:
My aunt said that "back in the day", people stateside would send used tea bags to the missionaries abroad. We just talked about how... mmm... how do you say... condescending that seemed. "If you are good enough to drink from new tea bags, why aren't the missionaries?"
We are blessed to be surrounded by people who give of their best, even when it hurts, so that we can do what we do. However, we do see "things".
Like a team who came to do an eye clinic. Free vision checks and glasses! Of course people were excited. Until they found that they were these homemade glasses. Plastic lenses held in by wire twisted together with pliers. Of course the team that brought these did it with the best of hearts. Of course they got blisters as they twisted together those pairs of spectacles... But, seriously. They were like these deformed monstrosities, precariously tilting on the noses of the "blessed poor" that received them. How hard would it have been to use the same energy it took to get all those supplies, lug them to Mexico and make the glasses-- and raise funds to pick up a pile of reading glasses from the Dollar Store?? Honestly, I was embarrassed to be translating, and I freely told the recipients that if they didn't like them, not to feel like they had to take them. One 15-year-old girl came in. She was very cutely dressed and nervous as she took the exam. Then, they whipped out these "coat hangers turned into eye helpers", and I could see her embarrassment.
Recently, a church here in the area gave us maybe 20 garbage bags full of clothes to take out to one of our needy communities. I was helping Rey load some of the bags into the van last night to take out to the community they are at today.
An article of clothing fell out of the bag of clothing. It took me a while to figure out what it was. It was red polyester. But, what...?? Turns out it was a sleeve. Cut off of a blazer. That's what I'm talking about. Why? Why put that into a "charity" bag? It's garbage. Put it there.
I did my best grandmotherly voice and limped over to Rey, the sleeve laying across my outstretched hands: "Here, you poor soul. This is the best I have. Be blessed and Cristo te ama [Jesus loves you]." Cuz that's supposed to be the point of our giving, right? To reflect the love of Jesus?
So, I guess... I am just wanting "acts of charity" to really be "acts of agape love = "profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person." (from dictionary.com). Don't give someone garbage and pat yourself on the back. If it's not good enough for you, it's not good enough for "the poor". The poor are humans with pride and dignity. They too want to look good, feel good, enjoy good things.