Spiritual Practices at the Thrift Store

When I retired a few years ago, I changed my shopping habits. In the past, I had occasionally frequented second-hand stores when I needed an item for one-time use. Now, I began to shop for all my household items and clothes (except shoes and underwear) at yard sales, consignment stores, the Habitat Re-store, and Goodwill.
At first, I noticed practical advantages, such as being able to purchase items of higher quality or comfortable garments in larger sizes for my “temporary” weight gain. But as I became a habitual shopper in the underground economy, I began to notice subtle changes in my attitude. I had begun to cultivate spiritual practices at thrift stores.
The first of these practices is PATIENCE. Shopping for second-hand goods takes time. I’ve learned to examine every item carefully, looking for the torn hem, the raveling seams, or the bleach spots that caused someone else to part with it. And the best items are inevitably misplaced— the CD in the sock bin, the men’s sweater (perfect for my husband) in with the women’s clothes, the pleated skirt draped over a lampshade.
With patience, I’ve developed an OPENNESS TO SURPRISES. For example, there was the time I found a dress I loved, only to accidentally shrink it in the washing machine, and then found a replacement in the same style and color a few weeks later in a different store. On another occasion, I’d developed a fascination with an old hymn tune I’d heard at a local African American church. Imagine my surprise when I walked into a used CD store and heard a contemporary arrangement of that very same tune coming through the speakers. Then there was my search through department stores and catalogues for a braided rug in colors that had become passé—fruitless until I caught sight of those very colors on a rolled-up rug being unloaded at the drop site of my neighborhood Goodwill. Of course, I know that on a planet wracked with war, disease, starvation, and environmental disasters, God has more important things to worry about than dresses, rugs, or mystery hymn tunes. And yet. Maybe these little gifts, deserved or not, are all around us when we open our eyes to see them.
The last spiritual principle I’m learning at thrift stores is DETACHMENT. I’ve always been extremely attached to my possessions. But I recently realized that my attitude was changing when I suspected that my luggage had been lost by the airlines. “But I had carefully chosen all my favorite things to bring,” I wailed. Then I got a grip. All those favorite things had come from second-hand stores. The monetary value of the contents of my luggage was $25—tops. And I knew I could find replacements at the local thrift store. So why do I need to keep furniture in a store room, decorative items in the attic, clothes I might wear again some day in the back of my closet? I can let them go, give them back to the universe, and if I need something similar later, I will find it among someone else’s discards.
I am gaining a new understanding of those scripture verses about not storing up treasures on earth, considering the lilies of the field, and not being anxious about tomorrow. Spiritual practices, I am learning, can grow from the most mundane activities—even shopping at a thrift store.

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