A couple of months ago, I took a pair of shoes I no longer wear to one of those big bins you sometimes find in parking lots to collect footwear and clothing for people in poorer countries. A crew of landscapers was working nearby, and they watched with interest as I hopped out of my car and deposited my donation. I could hear them discussing my actions in Spanish and couldn’t help wondering what they were saying.
“Look at that woman,” I imagined one of them remarking, “why is she putting a pair of perfectly good shoes in that bin?”
To which, another might have replied with an emphatic, “Loco!”
Suffused with guilt, I drove away, my mind wrestling with a feeling that I was somehow in the wrong. There is something wrong in owning so many pairs of shoes that I can give away a perfectly good pair, even if I do donate them to what appears to be a worthy cause.
It occurred to me that the shoes I had discarded so cavalierly could very well end up in the same country those men came from. A country where they likely wire money home each month to support their families.
In the US, it seems, it’s possible to live side by side in very different worlds.
I am fortunate. It has been many years since I lived paycheck to paycheck. And I’m grateful that these days, Labor Day means a three-day weekend.
For many years, it was just another workday. I can remember thinking it was ironic that the majority of workers whose jobs could actually be classified as “labor” spend Labor Day, well, laboring.
This is, if anything, more true now. In this economy, anyone with a job is counted lucky to have it, even if it’s part-time with no hope of ever becoming full-time and pays less than anyone could live on.
I don’t know the answer to this situation, but I suspect it involves a little more gratitude for the work behind every item we consume, and perhaps deciding that it’s worth it to pay a little more for something made by someone making a living wage and buying a lot less crap we’ll probably end up throwing away.
“Live simply that others may simply live,” someone once said, and I may be naive, but I think that’s a start.
At the very least, can we take a moment to think about all those for whom Labor Day is just another workday?
- Everything you need to know about Labor Day (carolynmantia.wordpress.com)
- A wardrobe from waste: tackling throw-away fashion (theguardian.com)