Good Will


My friend is a shopaholic. She loves variety and novelty but she isn't wealthy enough to support her addiction to shopping. She says wealthy people can afford their habits. Poor and middle class people rely on treatment centers, or jails for restraint

Ethel feels an intense need to have an entirely new wardrobe for every season of every year. She may be an addict, but she's creative and resourceful about her addiction. She found a way to accomplish her goal and support her habit (addiction) within the law and on a strict budget. I didn't quite understand what she meant when Ethel told me she pays for her purchases on something like a foreign exchange rate on a local level. Four times a year, at the beginning of each new season, Ethel packs up her entire wardrobe of winter, summer, spring, or fall clothes, as the case may be, and trucks them to the side door of the Good Will Store to make her donation.

"Phew", she says, as she rubs her hands together. "Out with the old and in with the new."

Her wide eyes glisten with wild anticipation as she contemplates her new wardrobe, and the fun of the shopping spree she is about to embark upon. She gets into her car and drives to her destination which is just around the corner. When she arrives at her favorite boutique, she marches straight through the front door of the Good Will Store where she encounters a shopper's paradise; a bargain hunter's dream come true. She steers her shopping cart through isles of well-marked merchandise, the cast offs of wealthy people. She finds brand names. Oh yes, good stuff.

"Where does all this good stuff come from?" she asks one of the polite and friendly sales clerks.

"Sometimes when a loved one dies, the relative charged with disposing of the deceased person's personal things just can't deal with it, too many memories. We're called in to collect it all."

"So this is dead people's stuff?"

"Not all of it. Some is stuff just plain good folks donate." The clerk gave Ethel a wide smile." Sometimes people, middle class people, give us stuff out of the goodness of their hearts." She squinted her eyes and wrinkled her brow. "Sometimes people have too much and they just want to share." She looked down at her feet. "We help people get rid of the stuff they don't want anymore."

"So you collect the stuff. Then what?"

"We provide jobs and dignity to some of our under- employable citizens. A lot goes on behind the scenes. Is there something you need help with?"

Ethel shrugged. A smile slowly erupted on her face. "Thank you. I've been here before. I know the routine." She headed for the rack marked shirts for women and immediately spied the color around which she would build her new wardrobe. The rack with the purple shirts must have been ten feet long. Finding the correct size was a bit more of a challenge. Ethel didn't mind. She was having fun. She rummaged through all the sizes until she had collected eleven treasures. Then she headed for the skirts. "Let's see now, what goes with purple."

When her cart was brimming over, she headed for the dressing room to wait her turn. After carefully trying each garment, she made her selections, placed the rejects on the rack outside the door and headed for the checkout counter. Her bill came to a whopping big fifty dollars, about one tenth of what it would have cost at the local discount store. More important, Ethel had satisfied her craving and felt relieved. In three months she will do it again. Ethel had to laugh at herself when she discovered she'd purchased a familiar old friend, an article of clothing she herself had donated last season. Maybe Ethel isn't on the foreign exchange rate after all; maybe she's on the recycling program.

—M. LaCourt

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