I must say, this has to be one of the strangest, most random blog titles I’ve ever chosen, and yet, it fits perfectly. Welcome to a quick reflection on the upcoming “garage sale season” and ways it can help us love, serve, and honor one another’s stories.
The inspiration came last summer when I added things I didn’t want to move to my friend’s sale. The day dawned cold, rainy, and we weren’t sure if anyone would come by. But, true to garage sale culture, people still showed up. However, the even bigger surprise was finding ourselves in the midst of so many incredible opportunities to connect with others.
You see, garage sales are one of the only times people are just going to show up at your home, unannounced and unknown, to look at your stuff. Depending on your set-up, they are not just in front of your house but likely in your driveway, garage, or possibly even inside. It is a socially intimate stretch for the garage sale-er and the garage sale-ee existing within the physical, emotional, and psychological space normally reserved for family and friends. Maybe this is why the really cool conversations happen sometimes.
As I’ve not done many garage sales, I was not prepared for the number of people who came to shop but, also to talk. As they made their way around the tables, they didn’t just ask about prices. They also sometimes asked about purpose, history, and what memories it brought up for them. As examples, I want to share about two people we met that day. We’ll call them Mike and Carol.
Mike, a thin gentleman in his 60’s, asked about a yellow bike. He shared that he had recently lost over eighty pounds following gastric bypass surgery and hoped to continue his health journey. Then, pausing briefly and tearing up, he also mentioned it looked like his Dad’s bike, and he missed him very much. It was so neat to hear his story, congratulate him, and offer comfort to his Dad’s memory at the same time. He walked that bike to his car with a smile.
Carol, a grandma, was definitely not typical grandma age. She looked, patiently searching for toys and books for her seven grandchildren. Of the seven, she shared that only one was biologically related. Even so, she had recently taken all of them in to help support her now-sober, getting-her-degree daughter-in-law after a tough start in life. She was clearly proud of all of them and there was no suggestion of a burden. I was touched by her generosity and helping her love them with “stuff” we didn’t need anymore.
In addition to the exchanges from that day, I’ve also enjoyed some items and stories from garage sales as well. Things like baby items for my son after learning I was pregnant. Fifty-cent toys for nieces and nephews who got to hear about “who used to use that toy.” And, the “big kid bike” conversation that happened because the seller’s kid was now past the stage mine was entering. In short, all of it was more than a transfer of goods. It was the honoring of one another’s journeys.
So, as the days grow warm and neighborhood garage sale days arrive, let us not go out “just because.” Instead, may we enter those driveways and welcome people to ours with intention. Whatever items we are done with not only leaves us with “stuff” to offer, but also leaves us with stories—and maybe even some wisdom and love to pass along too.
It is in this exchange of connection, not simply things, where the hidden ministry in garage sales is found. May we keep our eyes open for all the deals—and the opportunities.
Photo by Charisse Kenion, used with permission