Last weekend J and I both cleaned out our closets and put bags of clothes and housewares together for a large Donation to the Salvation Army.
I finally drove over to the nearby Salvation Army store with a trunk full of bags yesterday afternoon. I realized when I got there that the garage to drop things off was closed, but there were bins outside to drop off items.
Recognizing that it had taken me a full week to get there and that we would need trunk space for picking family up at the airport this week, I went ahead and started to load the bags into the drop off bins available.
The bins are behind a small wall and as I was removing bags from my trunk I realized that there were a couple of people milling about, going through the bags and boxes that had been dropped off. Initially I thought that they worked there, but by the time I brought a second bag over, I realized that they were taking things from the bags and running behind a nearby fence / trees, then coming back to look for more.
I stood there and watched this happen a couple of times.
I was perturbed. What do I do? Stop unloading bags? Keep unloading bags? Say something?
Was I on Candid Camera?
I quickly realized that these individuals were a family – what looked to me like grandparents and a grandchild, probably about age 4-5.
It was when I saw the little boy run to his grandmother with a used binder that I ultimately decided that if this family needed things badly enough to steal from the Salvation Army, I should probably do my thing and go on my way, but honestly, I was bothered.
Essentially, these people were stealing from a charity and that really bugs me. It seemed like they had their process down. They clearly knew when the garage closed and were waiting for people like me to do a drop off. When I put down a box with a couple of blankets and a vase, I turned around and saw the woman running away with the vase, behind the fence. When I came back with more items, she just waited for me to put the bags down and as soon as I turned around, started going through them.
I am 100% certain that this would happen whether I was there or not, I obviously just happened to see them.
Am I annoyed because I saw it all happen?
Am I annoyed because they were stealing?
Am I annoyed by what I saw them stealing?
Am I annoyed because I feel like she stole from me while I was watching?
Does putting something in a bin at the Salvation Army make it public property?
I am not sure why I was annoyed, but I was.
I dropped off all of my bags because it seemed weird to pick up the couple that I had started with, put them back in my trunk and drive away, but maybe I should have. Serious moral dilemma.
Had they been taking things like clothes or blankets, I might have felt better, but what they seemed to be taking were non-critical housewares like vases and planters.
I left thinking that if this family needed to steal from the Salvation Army than things must not be great in their world and I should be thankful that I have an opportunity to donate… but I don’t know, it still feels weird.
What would you have done?