Sharing with those you don’t know
An exquisite cycle of buying and giving at second-hand stores
By Maggie James, Indiana
When I was a little kid, I had lots of toys and books and fun clothes and costumes. We had fun buying things at a local thrift store, and I never knew it was different than any other store, because it was where we always shopped.
As I got older, I understood that we not only bought things from that store but also dropped things off there so others could buy them. I started to see the process of “sharing our goods” that the thrift shop helped us participate in.
Mom told me that sometimes the people who made clothing worked in unhealthy or unsafe conditions or weren’t paid enough money to make a living. So rather than purchase new clothes that perpetuated that process, she chose to buy clothes secondhand. It was a small way to be a step removed from contributing to an industry that seemed unjust to her.
And since we got tired of toys long before they wore out, we often “shared them” with others by donating them to the thrift store.
Another sensitivity that has developed in our family is the awareness that sometimes we hold on to things because we’re trying to figure out “who might need them.” But, often, when we need something, we find it easily at the thrift store, and we’ve come to see that it’s not always necessary to share things only with people we know, since we often benefit from the things that arrive to us more providentially — from people having dropped them off at the thrift store or even through an online sharing system like freecycling.
One moment that really made me realize the beauty in sharing with those you do not know was in the spring of my junior year of high school, when I, like so many other high school girls, was searching for the perfect prom dress. I didn’t necessarily start my search in the same places as my friends. Instead of going to the mall or a fancy boutique, I went to Savers, a thrift store near my house.
To my delight, I found a beautiful black velvet dress that fit me perfectly. I loved it, and just like that my search was over. I was so happy to have been able to buy my prom dress at a thrift store, not only because it was much cheaper than a dress I could have bought new, but also because it was special to know that this dress had probably also been special to another girl, maybe for her prom.
I was extremely appreciative that even if it had been a special dress to her, she still chose to give it away so that someone else could be lucky enough to wear the dress, too. I even added my own touch to the dress, sewing a white sash to it that I had found in my closet.
And I was happy to think that one day, after I had worn it to my prom, I could hand it off to another girl that I would probably never meet, but who would hopefully be as excited to wear this new dress as I had been when I discovered it.
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