I know I’ve offended some of you with that headline but hear me out.
Last night, I went to Penn Station with a group of friends to hand out scarves, gloves and coffee to homeless people. One of my guy friends, who actually worked as the Fashion Director of a popular magazine, coordinated the Penn Station outing.
I knew I wanted to be a part of it as giving back is something that comes natural to me. I have a lot of compassion, and I’m not just saying that to be lauded.
Seeing people suffer infuriates me. I know the way the world is, and that we live in a capitalist society, but I (somewhat naively) cling to the notion that it’s just unfair for people to starve and live outside in the bitter cold. So though I can’t change the world, I find that giving back is very healthy and fulfilling to me.
Not everyone is the same way. Before I left, I asked my good friend if she wanted to join. She paused, before informing me that nothing was pulling her away from a heated apartment and into the bitter cold night. I understood and left it alone. Why? Because I believe, strongly, that helping the homeless is volunteer work. And volunteer, by definition, is an act that a person chooses to do. It is NOT required of them.
Too often, people that participate in charities can’t feel great about their efforts without criticizing others who don’t partake. I don’t think that’s fair. The personal choice I make to give back is something that shouldn’t be imposed on other people.
Our contribution yesterday of coffee, scarves and gloves, however small, had a significant impact on the homeless people we met. It touched them that we cared and spoke with them and laughed with them and treated them like people. I find the notion that I touched someone and helped someone in the smallest way very rewarding. However, if the next person doesn’t, I don’t hold it against them.
That’s why I’m on the fence about the uproar surrounding the Herald Square H&M’s disposal of clothes that aren’t purchased via NYMag.com. I’m sure they join a long list of companies, like restaurants, who do away with their product once they’re certain it won’t be sold. Do I like it? Of course not.
But I certainly won’t condemn and slander H&M because of it. It may not be the most morally upright practice, but it’s not against the law. And more importantly, it’s their decision no matter what we all feel they should do.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m sure they have their reasons for not donating those clothes to the homeless. Maybe there is a degree of selfishness attached to it, like my friend suggested over the phone. Perhaps it’s because, as a commenter on the Cut Blog claimed, no one wants to see a military jacket they paid a grip for given out to someone for free. (For the record, I actually wouldn’t mind. It was going to the trash anyway and if it’s going to someone in need, I’m with it). Another argued that if H&M clothes are given away for free, why would we have any incentive to buy them? The most viable explanation I’ve heard is that they don’t want it recycled back into the market and resold.
I personally would prefer if, instead of discarding these clothes, the Herald Square H&M donated them to one of the many clothing drives that give back to the homeless throughout New York City. That’s what I do to the hoards of dresses I never wear, and it feels good. But I’m a young, compassionate woman who enjoys giving back. Not the manager of a multi-million dollar franchise. And we should be able to have a difference of opinion without it getting ugly.
What do you think, Glamazons? Will you still shop at H&M knowing that they’ve discarded clothes that weren’t purchased? Do you think they are obligated to give back?