I am not a hoarder. I can detect items to be thrown away or recycled from 20 paces. There is no hiding place for them in my house. Rarely do I allow sentimental feelings to get a look-in when I'm on a de-clutter mission to the local tip.
In late November last year, my frequent visits prompted one of the attendants to ask me, with typical Scouse humour, if I was trying to get an invite to their Christmas party. He reasoned that I was at the site more often than some of his staff!
Recently, with a carload of assorted bin bags, I sat in a long line of traffic waiting to get into the recycling centre. I watched people empty their vehicles and observed the motley selection of items being hurled into the labelled skips: furniture that, in my opinion, didn't look too dilapidated; decent-sized pieces of wood, obviously the remnants of someone's DIY attempts; plastic paraphernalia, along with all the usual detritus of everyday life.
Seasonal bits of old tinsel and scrawny fake Christmas trees were dotted haphazardly around the perimeter of the site and an array of smiley-faced ornaments sat happily along the length of the sidewalls, together with teddies, toys, plants, banners, scarfs and pictures; all of these, presumably, had been rescued over time by the attendants after the items had been unceremoniously dumped, to add a touch of colour. It was good to see them being reused to lift the mood.
That evening, I saw a film about hordes of barefoot, unsupervised children, their small bodies ravaged by hunger and deprivation, scavenging at a refuse site in the Philippines. The stark irony of my earlier tip excursion hit me hard. My visit had been to make space in my home, but these children were foraging for survival; sifting through other people's waste as their only source of income. With no access to decent
nutrition, medicine or education, the chances of their improving their situation – without help – are virtually
zero. The perils they face from diseases contracted from filthy waste and injuries from dodging bulldozers amid the 30m mountains of fetid rubbish represent a daily fight for survival. These are children without a childhood.
The horror of this situation is replicated throughout the world in one way or another. Wars, corporate greed, natural disasters and environmental factors are some of the causes of poverty, but children seem to rate extremely low on the list of global priorities. There is hardship on our own doorsteps, but especially at Christmas we can feel swamped by the many calls on our finances. It is understandable to be cautious about giving money to charities when we are unsure if our money will reach the people for whom it is intended. We can, however, be confident that charities such as Mary's Meals, Cafod, Missio, LAMP and other often parish-based groups are trustworthy custodians of our donations. Very few of us will ever meet the suffering people of other countries in person but these organisations reach out to them on our behalf.
Throughout the Bible, Jesus identifies Himself in the poor, sick and marginalised, and offers us great blessings for caring for them – and consequences for not. In Matthew 25:40-45 he tells us: 'Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'
God created each of us as a beautiful gift to Himself, so when we reach out to His people wherever they are – with love and support – we are very clearly loving, honouring and serving Him too. What a privilege!