An Evangelical Pilgrimage
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Yard Sales and Being

Coffee and Lemonade

Portland, OR :: I am too self-conscious to enjoy yard sales. On a missions trip to Mexico with my high school youth group, I stayed up late one night playing poker with a few friends. The whole group was sleeping in tents pitched close together, and I guess the poker game got loud (probably when I was caught cheating) because my dad, who had come on the trip as a leader and was staying in a nearby tent, came over and told us to be quiet and that we were “airing our dirty laundry.” My friends and I snickered at the idiom, which was unfamiliar to us at the time, and my Dad had to translate.

Yard sales air dirty laundry: they make public what should probably remain private. Here are our possessions, or at least the ones we are willing to part with. What do you make of my life? How much is it worth to you? And the insecurity works both ways. I don’t go to garage sales because I always feel obligated to buy something. To walk away empty-handed is to say “There is nothing you have that I want,” which is another way of saying, “I don’t want you.”

This is obviously ridiculous. We are not the sum of our possessions. I don’t see people that way, and I don’t see myself that way; not really, though once before I got married I didn’t receive any mail for almost a month – no letters, no bills, not even personally addressed junk mail – and I started to question if I existed, or if I was just a figment of my own imagination. This is an existential question every American should probably wrestle with at one time or another: Do I have Being outside the economic establishment? Am I an objective reality for anyone besides credit card companies and marketing agencies?

The sale was supposed to start at 7:00 but the first customer arrived at 6:30. Two others showed up soon after. The three of them – two men and a woman – knew each other. I think they must be professional garage salers. The guy who showed up first is nicknamed Eight O’Clock Eddie, apparently because he has a reputation for getting to sales first. The second guy wore a canvas vest like you might see on a television reporter in Baghdad, as well as a tam o’shanter and a Bluetooth earpiece. Eight O’Clock Eddie watched for a half hour as we set up the tables and organized our wares. In the end, he didn’t buy anything. The man with the Bluetooth bought an espresso machine, but he looked annoyed that we didn’t have more stuff he wanted. Sorry.

At any rate, a lot of other folks wanted to buy what we were selling, which is great. As Kate mentioned in her earlier post, we raised a combined $900 from sales, Kate’s coffee and cookie and lemonade stand, and some generous donations. This tripled my expectations and doubled my hopes. We also got rid of a lot of things we probably didn’t need in the first place.

The successful yard sale is the latest detail of the trip to fall into place. “Go forth boldly in the direction of your dreams; live the life you’ve imagined,” Thoreau wrote somewhere. Joseph Campbell said “Follow your bliss and the Universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.” It troubles me to put so close together two quotes probably found on a thousand thousand bumper stickers. But I feel like going forth boldly and following our bliss is what Kate and I are trying to do – and the Universe, so to speak, is responding.

August 16, 2009   7 Comments