oversized bagShe is unstylish in the best sense of the word. She walks into the store with a bag too big and bulky to be tucked neatly under her arm. Her slacks have smudges on both knees from some task that required bending them. Her hair is pulled back in a ponytail, the cut that the population of women who cannot afford to go to the beauty shop every six weeks wears. The only jewelry she wears is a small, tarnished cross on a chain around her neck.

She lifts a plastic sack out of her oversized bag and puts it on the counter in front of me. When she speaks, the sentence is ungrammatical but entirely clear. “Those things don’t need to be round my house taking up space. I’m wanting to donate them to you folks so that somebody can get some use of them.”

“Thank you for the donation,” I say. “Would you like a receipt?”

“A receipt? What would I do with that?”

“We’re a charity. If you itemize your taxes, you can write it off.”

“Oh, I see. No. I don’t need no receipt. Only God needs to know what I give away.”

She is unstylish in the best sense of the word.

Jane Knuth
Jane Knuth
Jane Knuth is the author of Thrift Store Saints: Meeting Jesus 25¢ at a Time and Thrift Store Graces: Finding God’s Gifts in the Midst of the Mess. She has been volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store in Kalamazoo, Michigan, for the last 17 years. She is also a math tutor. Knuth and her husband, Dean, live in Portage, Michigan.


  1. Jane, a good story; well written. Your first sentence hooked me. I too volunteer at a resale shop that also has a food pantry and good Samaritin service. I relate to your tale of generosity. Thank you for sharing your gift of writing and story telling.

  2. I work in a St. Vincent de Paul clothing “bank” – we give the clothing away to migrant families and others in tough times. The stories they tell and the relationships we build are amazing. I love the people I work with and we are reminded that we meet and serve Christ in this ramshackle building. Its wonderful.

  3. Yes, a very generous act by a kind lady. I too work in an op shop and, of course, we have many different people coming through our doors. People who are struggling, people who enjoy finding a bargain, well-to-do people who donate and also buy. They’re all valuable. I’m happy to report that our neighbouring shopkeepers are also regular donators and customers.

  4. It is often the poor who are so incredibly generous – the widow’s mite! Thanks for sharing this story of a beautiful heart!

  5. Very interesting! I have never heard of anyone who donates clothing OR anything to St Vincent de Paul Asking for a receipt ,to write it off taxes??? Maybe that’s ONLY IN AMERICA?? I really need to halve my wardrobe, so it has given me the incentive to hurry up and do it AGAIN!!!

    • We do donate and take the receipt for that purpose many times during the year Yet often we don’t accept the receipt and just donate to improve the lives of others. Americans have so much junk in their homes and theIr lives that donating to others often relieves the guilt of having too much. We are amazed when we downsize or move to see what we have accumulated by purchase, gifts from friends and relatives, re-gifting, etc. We often both feel guilty and at the same time question how to get rid of it. As Catholics we suffer the same dilemma. As we move from childhood to adulthood to pre-death due to old age, we remember those we have offended and often judge those who may not have realized that they offended us. Some say “it is the will of God that we forgive and forget”. Thank you God for helping us wake up and think of others.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Loretta Pehanich
Marina Berzins McCoy
Tim Muldoon