Reflections by Shane Murphy Goldsmith
In this very personal blog piece, Liberty Hill’s President and CEO Shane Murphy Goldsmith reflects on her early life growing up in Santa Monica, the challenges she and her family faced, and the profound impact a local organization called Clare | Matrix had on her childhood.
When I was a kid, we didn’t have money for anything except basic needs. Thankfully, we never went without a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. But everything else was a luxury we could not afford – dental care, health care, new toys, new clothes, etc. My dad had a way of putting a positive spin on our hardship, always helping us to understand the structural injustices we faced, teaching us to stand up for ourselves and believe in ourselves, and to always be generous with others. My dad also avoided charity like the plague. He could sniff out disrespect and paternalism from a mile away and it would trigger a deep rage. So, we avoided any kind of government assistance or community services.
But the Clare | Matrix Thrift Shop was special. It wasn’t special to me because it supported people struggling with substance use disorders. It wasn’t special to me because I knew the first thing about the programs its retail revenue supported. It was special to me because of my dad.
My dad, who was a single parent after my mom passed away when I was 9, would take my little brother and I to the Clare Thrift Shop all the time. It was part of our daily routine. And the man who worked there, we’ll call him Leo, became like family.
I would get to pick through the treasure trove of clothes in every possible style, finding gems every time. I was able to create my own unique and eclectic style, which was never “cool”, but it was fun. I would bring an armload of clothes to the counter with glee. Leo would ring me up, and with a wink, he would discount each item to as little as 25 cents to make sure I could get everything I wanted with the $3 my dad gave me. Leo and my dad would chat about life while I shopped. It was like stopping into our family store. Leo would ask how I was doing, how I was liking the clothes from my last shopping spree. We felt at home. It didn’t occur to me that this was some kind of service for poor people, because I had no idea we were poor and because we loved that place so much. I know Leo treated my dad with the respect he deserved, but often didn’t get because he was poor, because if he hadn’t, we would never have gone back.
My dad called it “recycling” so we got to feel like we were actually contributing to a better world by shopping at the thrift store, rather than doing it because we had no other options.
One time, my dad came home with a very special piece of clothing he had found for me at Clare. It was a jean jumpsuit. Long sleeves, long pants, jean material. I was nearly moved to tears by this incredibly thoughtful gesture from my dad. But, I absolutely could not wear that thing. It was terrible. So, the next time we went to Clare, I snuck the jumpsuit back to the store and gave it to Leo to “recycle.” A few days later, my dad brought the jumpsuit back to me! He did not seem to remember he had already given it to me, thank goodness. So, I kept it in my closet, a constant reminder, among many, of my dad’s love for me.
My dad would also buy electronics and appliances at Clare to repair and resell or give away. If any of our neighbors needed anything – a microwave, a fridge, a TV – my dad would get it at the thrift store, repair it, and give it to them. He would also sell things in the local newspaper to make some cash. He eventually began doing repairs and deliveries for Clare, spending his days there while we were at school, doing what he could to earn income and contribute to our community.
I moved away from my childhood home after my dad died when I was 20. But I have never forgotten Clare | Matrix. I was overcome with gratitude and joy when my friend and long-time Liberty Hill donor, Mark Freund, asked me to speak at a Clare | Matrix event. Mark had recently become chair of the board and recalled a story I told him many years ago about my experience with Clare.
Since my days searching for treasures at the thrift shop, I have gone on to marry and have kids of my own (technically, cheer my wife on while she made them!). Thanks to the best job in the world, I’m able to not only meet all of my family’s needs, but they can have all the new clothes they need. Maybe someday they’ll discover the pleasures of thrifting on their own, but their relationship to it will be different from mine. Every day I am so grateful that my kids and I do not have to experience the hardship that my family did when I was growing up. And I am so grateful that when my family needed clothes, community, respect, income, Clare Foundation was there for us. And I know they have been there for countless others over the years.