Time to break the bank…
In the course of writing a book, you think a lot about words. We’ve heard people say, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.” There are two sides to all communication – content and delivery. How we relate to people is dependent on both. This got me thinking about the “New-to-You Clothing Bank” at my agency, A Second Chance, Inc. Our clothing bank bridges a need for many of our kinship families, as well as community residents.
If you ever travel and forget a piece of clothing or a personal care item, you know what a hassle – and expense – it can be to replace it when you’re out of town. Imagine now that you are a child suddenly removed from your home with little-to-no notice. Children who fall victim to abuse or neglect and must become a part of the child welfare system, are removed from their homes at any time of the day or night. This is not a planned or 9-to-5 occurrence. There is no time to think about what you’ll need, what you’ll wear, or how many days you’ll be gone. In very little time, a child typically throws whatever belongings they can into a bag and are rushed out the door.
Our clothing bank is a dignified way for families to acquire some of the clothing a child may be missing. In many instances, kinship caregivers deny themselves clothing in order to provide for the child in their care, so we also encourage them to utilize the clothing bank as well.
This brings me back to the words “clothing-bank”. Those two words – even when preceded by the phrase “New-to-You” are not the friendliest for a family dealing with trauma and crisis.
As a strong advocate of a strength-based perspective in both my professional and personal life, I am mindful of always framing things from this viewpoint. The words “clothing bank” bring attention to something that is “wrong” instead of something that is “missing” and thus can be replaced.
We have begun the process of renaming our clothing bank the “Kinship Closet”. How many of you have ever gone into a sibling or friend’s closet to perhaps borrow something? It’s not at all unusual for a friend to give you an article of clothing they simply don’t wear any longer. When you forget to take something with you to a hotel, have you ever called down to the front desk and perhaps ask for a toothbrush or toothpaste? When these things happen, we rarely feel embarrassed. Rather, we see it as an act of kindness and convenience.
I want our kinship families to feel dignified – never embarrassed, never as if they did something wrong. Words are powerful; what you say and how you say it matters. Language indeed creates our reality. I see “clothing-bank” as a label that contradicts hope and optimism.
Our clothing bank is closed – our kinship closet is open.