Advent post: Perfume and Earrings

Advent time is here, by golly! And Advent is, among other lovely things, a time for penance and almsgiving. I’ve been thinking about things I’ve done well and poorly in the past w/r/t almsgiving and charity, in particular, and I’m going to blog about some of those things this week. We’ll see how long this series lasts. It is sort of advice in the sense that some of you may find that my experiences are useful to you. I would also be really interested in hearing other people’s thoughts on this stuff. Just click the little flying envelope to your right!

This first post is short, just a note to say that people don’t just need the things they need. People who beg on the street don’t only need money, food, shelter, a place to do laundry, a job, legal help, or medical care. Obviously if you can help them get those things that is great. But people also need things which make their lives a little gentler, a little more beautiful and personal.

Some of the best things I’ve done for people in severe material want were these little gifts of earrings, perfume, books for the kids, something I thought they might particularly like based on specific things they’d said to me. People need to be listened to. (Perfume specifically is obviously both decorative and practical if you don’t have regular access to a shower–it’s a practical gift which has the extravagance and aesthetic pleasure of a purely decorative gift.) Being seen as someone who is beautiful and worthy of adornment can help rebuild a sense of self-worth, ground down over the humiliating course of the day.

About Eve Tushnet

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