Tag Archives: Matthew 25 Ministries

Eli Writes — Guest Post by My Son

After I got in some legal trouble awhile back I was assigned to community service for a period of 80 hours. Not really wanting to don the most attractive orange jumpsuit and go pick up trash on the highway, I decided to take matters into my own hands and go volunteer at an organization over in Kenwood called Matthew 25. I had volunteered there my senior year of high school and it didn’t make me suicidal so I figured it couldn’t be too bad this time around, either. It was sort of embarrassing to explain the reason why I was there was because I had committed a crime, but I soon realized they didn’t really care all that much. They were just glad to have the help. It was a reminder that not everyone in the world is as obsessed as I am over what happens in my life. That really can be a surprising revelation, sometimes. Anyway, the first day I went in I remembered why I picked Matthew 25 in the first place.
Though none of the work I was doing was particularly challenging or cerebral, it didn’t have to be. Throughout the process of sorting out hundreds of pairs of shoes and pants, as well as many other different types of clothing, it ever so slowly began to dawn on me that these products were going to real people. I had always had a problem with sensing the disconnect between me and the faceless, undoubtedly African (because it always has to be the black people we’re doing charity for, for some reason) kids that I was wrapping up shoes for, but Matthew 25 has just the solution for that type of emotional detachment: a very well-made and involving tour showcasing some exhibits of disaster areas and living conditions present in many foreign countries, and also some present in this country. The tour guides (there’s a different one every time I take the tour) are always knowledgeable, speak clearly and answer every question you might have. It’s only about a 30-40 minute tour, but it’s so informative and affecting there’s no excuse not to take it if you’re going to volunteer at Matthew 25 even once. The way, i think, Matthew 25 succeeded with me was actually building “disaster sites” – letting me see, right in front of me, piles of garbage with rancid puddles of liquid where people sleep, tiny huts with dirt floors that hold a family of 5, crumbled concrete and shattered building foundations – a reconstructed site of an earthquake. Visual aids must be extremely powerful for me because they let me focus and keep my thoughts from wandering too far off.
So when I go through that tour, then go back out into the main warehouse where the lights are on and the fans are blowing and everyone is a white upper middle-class person, it’s harder to forget that I’m sorting out flip-flops for a really damn good reason. Good ol’ Judge Judy may have sent me here, but I’m sort of glad I got the opportunity to serve. Not only that, but I’ve had some truly enlightening and even healing conversations with my girlfriend, my mother, and my friends. The nice thing about doing long, repetitive work that doesn’t require a whole lot of effort is that, if you do it with someone, it’s essentially 3-4 hours of perfect time to talk about anything and everything. I love taking people with me to community service for that reason – if I take my mother with me, it’s hardly ever just an afternoon of folding socks or something. It’s an afternoon of folding socks, certainly, but it’s also an afternoon of strengthening our relationship, finding out more about what my mother is thinking, and sort of getting a break from running around constantly to actually talk to her with no other real distractions to speak of. It’s pretty special to me that I get to do that, even if it does get hot in there.
I’m just glad I’m making a difference. Whether I was forced into it or not, at this point, is irrelevant to me.

“Completely Disposable Lunch” or Getting a Global Perspective

Kepler’s class went to the zoo on Thursday and the instructions were to pack a completely disposable lunch. When we went to the park the other day, we were instructed to pack a completely trash-free lunch. Both instructions make sense for the respective destinations, but I really hate plastic water bottles. I’ll probably be able to find peace by sending him a bottle of juice, even though the bottle will most likely not be recycled. (Oh, boy, first world problems, much?)

Sometimes when my more immediate worries quell, I think about the ocean and how much trash we are putting in that incredibly valuable resource. It’s like I want to go on a tirade or a crusade or a parade to get everyone to 1. stop using disposable plastic water bottles, 2. recycle everything they possibly can, and 3. get completely serious about Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

This is a great resource for solutions to reducing how much waste we are producing.


Some of my favorite ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle include the following:

1. Buying no disposable plastic water bottles.

2. Using a commuter mug for Starbucks drinks, although honestly I occasionally get something in one of their cups and then reuse it.

3. Recycling as much as possible. It is very difficult to buy food items that do not utilize packaging, so I recycle whatever I can.

4. Composting.

5. Reusing water from the dehumidifier in our table top fountains and our humidifiers.

6. Donating what I can rather than throwing it away.

7. Being conscious of how my usage impacts the rest of the world, as well as the earth itself.

8. Always looking for new ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle. There are times when I have a lot of energy for that, and other times when I am not able to focus on it as much.

9. Using my own reusable grocery bags and reusing the few plastic ones that I end up getting.

10. Reducing my usage of plastic bags. I still have a long way to go in this area because I find the whole washing and reusing thing to be cumbersome.

Erased all that because, yes, they are ways I like to reduce, reuse and recycle, but I wrote them a few days ago and then this morning had an experience that informed this post considerably. I volunteered with my son at Matthew 25 Ministries.

Matthew 25 Ministries

M25M is a worldwide shipping corporation and ministry that repurposes corporate items that would otherwise be discarded, provides relief for victims of natural disasters and helps empower people living in poverty around the world. I bet M25M isn’t perfect, just like no organization is, but what I saw got me excited about being involved in a very practical way of addressing the very real issue of children living without electricity, running water, and other basic necessities.

We began with the “global village tour.” I’ve never been amongst actual ruins from a hurricane or a tornado or flood. Pictures are not quite the same as looking as the ruins themselves. Something about the 3-dimensional aspect of the displays touched me deeply. I was in tears by the end as I thought about how great the need is, and how glad I am to live in the same city as this organization that is doing so much.

The son I was with is doing his court-ordered community service there, and invited me to go along. (One might say a silver lining in the cloud of dealing with the addiction and recovery process.) At the end of a life-changing week, I was totally surprised to discover this gem and to feel the pull it has on me to volunteer there and make a difference. I have the time and the resources and the desire. We only spent two hours there, but as we left, I realized THIS is my favorite way to reduce, reuse, recycle. Be a part of something that is making a difference in the lives of people in need. Even if it means providing plastic water bottles of water to people so they don’t have to, like, drink out of a filthy dirty puddle.