Leaving the house in search of some downtime, I take a chance on spending part of the late afternoon at a charitable thrift store.
Pulling into the parking lot of one of this area’s largest stores, I find only two spaces remaining. Balloons and special signs tell me today is a serious sale day. People are everywhere, arriving, leaving and milling about.
Over the years I have lived here, I have come to recognize a few of this community’s most serious secondhand shoppers-not by name but by appearance. And, when I begin to bump into any one of them frequently, it is a signal that I need a few months off from my own charitable-thrift-store “ministry.”
This afternoon’s trip is about getting out of the house to regroup, ground and center, rather than being about hunting for something in particular. Walking into the warehouse-sized store, oldies blare through the PA. My mood, which is upbeat, elevates even more. And, though the store is very busy, the racks are full enough for the methodical shifting of garments in front of my chasséing body. I will be able to regain center amid the chaos of people.
Moving through one section of the store, I notice a mother-daughter pair, whom I have not seen in a long while. The daughter is a mature woman, and her mother looks more frail than she did the last time I saw them bargain hunting. More frail or not, the mother maintains her general sparkle—a sparkliness of countenance which I love seeing.
Two sections later and with a one-half-hour between us, all three of us end up in the same area. To bypass the lines at the dressing rooms, I use a full-length mirror to try a dress on over my clothing.
Setting her frail body down on a steam trunk which is for sale, the mother glances my way. “It looks like a fit!” she announces. (Supportive, team shopping is not uncommon in this area.)
Struggling to release the hem of the garment from the grip of my blue jeans, I answer, “Well, almost. I need to drop the hem to make sure.”
We talk a little more—idle chit chat of the girl variety. I am reminded that this type of banter is a luxury, a gift representing a certain amount of leisure time. We are fortunate. Having finally dropped the hem, I zip the dress up. It fits in a lumpy manner over my clothing, but it is good enough to take home and retry. Unzipping the garment, I slip it over my head and fold it, placing it on the small stack of items I have.
Readying myself to leave, I stop briefly in front of the elderly mother, with whom I have been conversing.
“Where have you been?” I ask frankly. “I have not seen you or your daughter out for a long while.”
“Oh, I have had such adventures this year,” she replies. “First I had a mild heart attack, then, a mild stroke. After that, I was mending.”
Worn into her daughter’s face are the lines of an exceptional care-giver. Every new line has been translated.
“Oh, my. You have had quite a year,” I respond simply.
Then, reaching for my hand, she takes it into the smooth cradle of both of her soft-skinned arthritic hands, saying, “You look like a praying woman. Please pray for me. Pray for my health.”
She has granted me a blessing. The blessing of being seen.
As she releases my hand, I assure her that I will add her to my prayers.