Sunday, September 9, 2012

From Classless to Classic.

I love attending Garage Sales. Not just because of the good "deals" you might find, but because of the diverse personalities you'll meet. In most cases, people are very personable and elated to get rid of their junk and make a little money doing it. And there is always interesting and good conversations, especially when I'm with Joe.

On the flip side, I loathe the coordination and execution of one.

Each year I coordinate and put on a fundraising sale, with the help of volunteers, to raise money for a charity I strongly believe in. We spend weeks collecting donations and hours sorting through the donated items separating the salable items from the not-so-salable ones. We size and price everything, pack it away until the big day arrives. And then we spend two long days setting up for the three day sale.

Besides the long hours of bending, standing, lifting, toting, aching feet and sore backs, we have the stress of the weather.Will we have nice weather? Will our tents weather any storms that are predicted? Anyone who has ever hosted a sale has experienced the hard work, stress and sleepless hours getting prepared to make a few dollars.

At this year's annual Save Our Tail Sale, a benefit for the Raccoon Valley Animal Sanctuary & Rescue, I personally experienced two situations that were so polar opposite it had my emotions all in a whirl.

The first one was by a young woman (mid to late 20's) with a very young child (2 or 3 female). She wanted a beanie baby that was part of a collection series donated to us with the request by the donor that we sale them as collector items, not toys. She did not want to pay the collector price tag, and wanted us to split up the set to purchase just one of the items. My efforts to offer her alternative choices, including other beanie babies less valuable were refused. When I tried to explain to her the promise I had made to this donor, she replied, "I understand, but it really is OK. Do you really think they will ever know?". I responded to her with "I'LL know. I'll know that I didn't honor her wish, and that's NOT OK with me!". I then apologized and said she could purchase the collection to get the one item she wanted, or select one of the other not so valuable ones for her daughter to play with.

But she wanted what she wanted, and stormed away, angrily, muttering derogatory comments about me while she returned to her vehicle. Some people may not understand why I made that choice, but I gave my word to the woman who had donated over 100 of these collectible items (obviously important to her), that we would treat them with the same amount of love and respect she had for them. Even though I'm not a personal collector of beanie babies, my conscience wouldn't allow me to make a "deal" with this woman just to provide her a toy for her two year old to "play" with. But knowing I kept my promise, did not make me feel any better about the nastiness I just endured by what appeared to be a very selfish and spoiled young woman. It would bother me for the rest of the day.

On the flipside, later that afternoon, a fragile woman, feeble in step, and with a cane that barely helped her balance, approached our sale. She was obviously moving slowly due to pain and when she entered the sale tents her eyes immediately fixated on the craft table. While she sorted through ribbon and crafting miscellaneous, her eyes lit up on the obvious prize of the day: the pre-stamped quilt blocks ready for the handy work of any person who loves to do needlework.

They were donated by a very dear friend of my mother's. Having polio as a child, this woman struggled and endured pain with every step she took. Working long hours as the manager of a laundromat proved to be physically challenging for her, but she found a way to find humor in her daily journey through life. She then was diagnosed with a brain tumor whereas she would be forced to retire, without benefits, and live the remainder of her life on disability in a chair. She would persevere for 5 more years through pain and suffering, whittling away the long hours in her chair doing needlework. She then donated her completed projects to what she would refer to as "the less fortunate." Last year she lost her fight and spirit and passed, but she left a legacy of kindness and perseverance that I will not forget. She also left some unfinished projects behind, which were then donated for the fundraising sale.

The buyer asked how much for the whole box of quilt block patterns as she loved to do this type of needlework herself. As a volunteer began adding up the contents of the box, this sweet lady shared with us all the things she loves to do and what she does with her finished projects. Listening to all the people she has paid it forward to, I knew right then that she would carry on the legacy of the original donor's generosity. But I wasn't prepared for her reaction to my offer.

I told the woman I would give her the entire box, including the ribbon that caught her eye in the first place, (valued at over $75) for $35. I explained my reasoning as being the mere fact that what she had just shared with me regarding her daily challenges is exactly the type of person the donor was. Having 2 hip surgeries, 2 knee replacements and surviving breast cancer that resulted in a total mastectomy, she still had the heart to "give" to others.

She burst into tears, gave both me and the volunteer a huge hug, and clapped her hands as if she were a child, free of pain. And then she grabbed my arm and said, "I promise you I'll do right by your friend. I'll carry on her legacy with these. I'll give them to those less fortunate then myself...I'll do you proud."

Humbly, I hugged her back and as the tears fell down my cheek, I completely forgot about the "what's her name" that came before her. And I felt much better about my decision and my judge of character! Within a few hours, I had met all types of people, from the classless, to the classiest! It was a classic case of what some call the "me" generation...and I'm glad I wasn't born in it, raised in it, and will continue to not be a part of it.


  1. Even though I was there during both occurrences, I didn't realize how deeply moved you were by the experience with the older woman. Obviously, the age difference between the two women was a factor, but it just goes to show that there's no substitute for integrity and respect. A garage sale certainly is a microcosm of humanity as all types and sizes appear in great quantity. How wonderful that you experienced the best after seeing the worst.

    1. I agree. It was a very moving and inspiring moment. Being true to myself made me feel as if I was standing alone, but in hindsight, I wasn't alone at all...

  2. Wow! By the end of this story I was in tears. To me the young woman had not a bit of compassion, which is taught. The older woman. To give after a life of sufferage is just beyond anything and a very good example that more younger people need to pay attention too. They dont realize what they can learn from older person, it can make you a better person, maybe a bit more compassionate. Shame that young girl wasnt there to see and here this older woman, she might have learned something. It worries what her daughter will and grow up to be with that kind of attitude.

    1. Thank you Missy. I'm glad I could share it as I felt it. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

  3. I do collect beanie babies -- not as much now as I used to because I can't afford them except very occasionally -- and I have a substantial number of them. I have enough trouble when one of my dogs decides only a beanie will do -- and I have a small collection of "one-eyed wonders" that I rescued from my critters before they were de-stuffed! I totally understand both the original donor's desire that her collection be sold in its entirety as a collection to a collector and think you made the right call, Linda. The child probably could care less what toy she put in her (his?) mouth -- and beanies, I believe, are not the best toy for children under three!

    I also believe you did a wonderful thing for the elderly woman -- not making her cry, but bringing her so much joy that she did cry. And she also understood the point of it all. We do stuff, we make stuff, we sell stuff, we hold garage sales and give things away and give our time and effort to help others, whether it's animals or children or battered women or the homeless.

    Nicky and I have been on both sides -- at craft fairs where we sold our polymer clay animals, etc., we have seen people's reactions when we really gave them a deal because they like something so much. As buyers at fairs and conventions, we have sometimes had people give us things at a price way below what they could have gotten for it because something told them we were the right people to have it. And we have tried to live up to that as well.

    Sometimes, when you meet too many of the first type of customer you described, it's easy to give up on people in general. Then you come across someone like the elderly woman and you understand why it is all worthwhile.

    Bless you and you work on behalf of Raccoon Valley Animal Sanctuary and the animals it helps.

    1. Thank you Jackie. You always put thoughts into words that make sense.