Moldy Clothes and An Unexpected Lesson

by Rynn Davison

Areli and I dug through the big, white sugar bags with hesitant fingers, picking up various articles of clothing with our fingertips. The smell of mildew and mold was so intense that it seeped into the fabric of my own Punjabi and reminded me of the stomach flu I’d had yesterday.

“Is this too big?” Areli asked Jasmine, one of the staff of the orphanage. The young mother looked at it and shook her head.

“Too dirty,” she said.

We were sorting through these bags of donated Indian clothes for a reason. On Friday, we would work with street kids. The street kids would be brought from the street to the children’s home. We would cut their hair, pick out lice, bandage wounds and give them clean clothes, food, and some Bible teachings.

We had a lot of washing to do. It occurred to me as I lifted a dress from the pile that these things had once been pretty and new. Someone had bought them that way. But no one would ever think of buying them now.

And yet, this is what we would give to the street kids. They can’t expect new clothes, I thought. Quite suddenly, I was furious.

“God, these kids deserve better! Look at all we have. Shouldn’t we be giving them pretty new things? Don’t they deserve better, God?”

Yes, Rynn, they do, God answered. What do these clothes remind you of?

“People. We do the same thing to people. The pretty ones, the smart ones…we reserve for them the ‘higher’ calling. We leave the ripped jeans and moldy T-shirts in the gutters.”

God seems to pick interesting times for reality checks. I wouldn’t have thought that shaking out a little girl’s mildewed smock could make me re-evaluate the way I view an Indian beggar pleading for a few rupees.