When Jesus talked about clothing the naked (Matthew 25:36), he was referring to a life necessity. At that time, if you were a Jew living in Palestine, a Roman soldier could demand that you give him your coat, and there went your protection against the weather. Cloth was woven, often locally. If a family was doing all right, close to self-sustaining, the women could make the garments needed. Beggars and other unfortunate people relied on others’ charity. For people with means, there was no shopping mall with multiple choices. For those without means, there was no Salvation Army thrift store.
Who needs to be clothed these days? Where I live, the city of Chicago, there are quite a few cheap options for those who need a shirt or some pants or shoes. Lots of thrift stores dot our city streets. I mentioned that I donate regularly to one of those, a St. Vincent de Paul store just a couple of miles from my home.
But what other issues are connected with this whole idea of clothing? I’ll start a list:
- People trying to find jobs need presentable clothes for interviews.
- Families with growing children constantly need clothes of all types—underwear, outerwear, school clothes, etc.
- School children often need uniforms, appropriate clothing and footwear for gym class and other activities.
- Families with financial struggles sometimes cannot keep up with weather challenges—proper snow boots, truly warm coats, gloves, hats.
- Recent immigrants, especially those coming here for asylum, from countries with quite different climates, may be unprepared for the weather and thus need entire wardrobes quickly.
- When disaster strikes a family or a community—flood, tornado, fire—the need is urgent and immediate.
And now I digress a bit from the mere charitable aspect of clothing. But these are questions worth asking:
- Cheap clothes often are cheap because they are made by poorly paid laborers, either here or abroad. Do we buy the clothes, so that these people at least have jobs? Or do we boycott those companies, hoping to force better working conditions and wages?
- How do we mentor young people regarding dress, self-perception and others’ perceptions, basic modesty, self-respect, and so on? When is a clothing issue with your teenager important, and when should we let it be?
- How do we counteract the tendencies of some clothing companies to sexualize young children through their advertising and clothing styles?
- How much do we allow fashion trends to shape our shopping habits?
- What are signs that my own relationship with clothing is healthy or unhealthy? When do I care too much about how I dress? Or when should I pay more attention to what I wear and why? If I figure out my own situation, perhaps I’ll be more sensitive to others’.
Time for the DDF community to chime in . . .