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God at the Yard Sale

CC Karl Hab

Cari Donaldson - published on 07/02/13

You can learn a lot about a person by what they call their sale or their Creator

I find God in nature. Among the mountains and creeks, hidden in the song of the catbird or the screech of the fox, God is there, speaking to me. You may not hear him there. I don’t hear him in music or math or mechanics as other people do, but I have no doubt he’s there, whispering to people from the folds of algebra or arpeggios or automobiles. I just can’t hear him then.

But you know where I think we can all hear Him, should we be listening? Yard sales.

Oh yes.  Yard sales are a treasure trove of theological lessons.  They’re known by many names – yard sales, garage sales, tag sales, rummage sales – much like God himself is known by a number of culturally specific monikers (and you can gather some immediate information about a person based on what they call their yard sale or their Creator).  I was raised in the land of “garage sales,” and, like a wandering Old Testament patriarch clinging to the words of God in foreign lands, I took my garage sales with me to the south, where they had yard sales, and then up the coast to New England, home of the curiously labeled “tag sales.”  Woe unto the child of my house who refers to them as tag sales, thus abandoning the names of their homeland.

Like Holy Mother Church, there is room for everyone at a yard sale.  The high rollers who swoop in early in hopes of scoring that antique Wedgewood china rub shoulders with the hoarder clutching a Ziploc bag full of quarters; the gangs of elderly ladies who gleefully buy the stacks of mildewing Harlequin romances exchange pleasantries with the teenagers hunting down old records.  Everyone is welcome at both yard sale and church (except the early birds… no early birds, please).

Yard sales are excellent places to practice detachment while simultaneously battling greed, as anyone who’s ever kicked themselves for not letting that dresser go for the $15 some man offered for it.  You really think you could get the full $30 you’re asking – your great Uncle Bob made it with his own hands!  Then, as the sun is setting and the mosquitoes are out in full fury, you sadly realize that you don’t have the $30 you wanted, you don’t have the $15 that were offered, and to top it all off, now you’re stuck lugging that heavy dresser back inside and come to think of it, you don’t even like the ugly thing.  

The Church’s teaching on subsidiarity can be observed playing out in yard sales all across the country.  From the multi-family behemoths to that weird guy down the street who throws a solitary blanket on his yard every Saturday and places two dozen broken objects on it, yard sales are organized and overseen by the smallest, most local group able to do so.  Prices are not regulated by any oversight committee, and that Gymboree shirt you think would look adorable on your toddler will cost you a quarter in Mississippi, and a solid three bucks in Connecticut.  People in both places would be happy with the deal.

And finally, there is my favorite lesson of all – the one I see played out every time one of my kids find some grubby toy, chipped up figurine, or puzzle with certainly a 10% loss of pieces, yet declare the object to be magnificent and worth every hard-earned penny.  Every single one of us, no matter how grubby or chipped up or a few pieces short of a full puzzle we are, is a priceless treasure in God’s eyes, which he gladly purchased with his blood.

Happy yard selling, everyone! (But hands off that side table with the wobbly leg and water stains…  I saw it first!)

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