23 October 2008

May the Thrift Gods Smile Upon You

On occasion, the thrift store gods smile down upon us, reminding us of their presence more than ever.

I should back up a little. My family has long been devoted to finding things in the most “thrifty” way possible- my mom and my uncle used to take me and my cousins out behind the strip malls dumpster diving for thrown away crafts supplies, picture frames, even cameras and film- anything we could find, really. We always make whatever we can ourselves, shunning the prospect of spending money on something unnecessarily. From my grandmother I also inherited the tendency to save everything compulsively, in case I might be able to use it later, resulting in the absurd number of boxes of bits and pieces, as I call them, filling my apartment workroom.

So when I found the perfect pair of shoes seven years ago I did not want to get rid of them. I am not one of those girls that really obsesses over shoes. I want a pair that I can beat to death, because I walk everywhere, and that matches the majority of my clothing so I don’t have to alternate shoes every day just so I match. I will admit an addiction to vintage heels, but when it comes to the shoes I wear on a daily basis I want one, maybe two options. This particular pair turned out to be so comfortable, and matched so much of my clothing, that I wore them every day until literally the bottom started falling out this past winter. The strap also came apart, and I fixed it back on with safety pins. I tried fixing the bottom of the shoe, with duct tape, with those plastic shoe things, with anything I could think of, but to no avail. I had to stop wearing the shoes on rainy days for fear of getting my toes wet.

This may all seem absurd to most people, who would say I should just go out and buy a new pair of shoes. And I did look for new ones, across two countries. I hate shopping in regular stores, but I suffered for the sake of finding shoes at least vaguely similar to mine. I even checked eBay. Alas. After months of searching, I finally gave up, resigned to only wear the shoes on sunny days. I considered having them fixed professionally, but considering the shoes originally cost me $10 at Payless I figured the shoe repair people would probably laugh at me for bringing them in.

And then- this past weekend- while scouring Goodwills for clothing for the upcoming MPC Photography Marathon (this Friday)- I happened to glance at the top of a rack, where Goodwill keeps the shoes, and what do I see, but my exact pair of shoes, except magically returned to their original condition, shining and in one piece. In my size.

I really couldn’t believe my luck. I hadn’t ever expected to find the shoes, ever again. The thrift store gods always provide, however. Just not always when you expect it.

My cousins and I have discovered this superstition, and liken it to the gods of prehistoric hunter-gatherer tribes. If you really need something, really need it, not just want it for some superficial reason, the gods will provide. You may have to patiently search, you may have to go a little out of your way, but with an open mind and the right attitude eventually everything you need will come your way- be it a new pair of shoes, the shelf you needed for those extra boxes of books, or even food. There is so much abundance in the world, that you will find when you aren’t trying to force it- when you aren’t demanding everything, right now, the way our society seems to encourage- the right things will eventually find you.

Advice we can apply to the rest of our lives as well. When it comes to the environment, things tend to work on their own, without intervention- the planet has had millennia to experiment and get things just right. If we’re willing to work within that system, and maybe accept that having oranges in a climate like Maryland’s in winter maybe just doesn’t make sense (and value them in summer all the more), the land will provide. The only rules: don’t take more than you need, and give back more than you take. I always make sure to donate two or three things to a thrift store for every item I find.

If you want to try your own luck with the thrift store gods, you can get started right here in Chestertown with our three lovely thrift stores:

Hidden Treasures
711 Washington Avenue
Phone: (410) 778-1219
Web: www.kentcenter.org
Hours: Mon. - Thurs. & Sat. 9:00am - 4:00pm Fri. 9:00am-5:00pm

The Nearly New Shop
320 High Street
Phone: (410) 778-1781
Web: www.chesterriverhealth.org
Hours: Mon. - Sat. 10:00am - 4:00pm

The WIN Thrift Store
106 Philosopher's Terrace
Phone: (410) 778-5999
Web: www.win-foundation.org
Hours: Thurs. & Fri. 10:00am - 6:00pm Sat. 10:00am - 4:00pm

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