Early one Sunday afternoon, on my way home from church, I stop by one of the local secondhand shops to see whether or not there is anything that “fits” on the deep, discount rack. Sunday is bargain day.
I developed the habit of shopping at secondhand stores years ago, at a time when my chemical sensitivities were so severe that they prevented me from shopping in normal retail locations. At that time, a trip to the mall was unthinkable for my body because the majority of retail locations pipe artificial fragrances into their facilities, through the ducts of their heating and cooling systems, thinking that they are creating a more pleasant shopping experience.
In addition to the scents piped into stores, there are also the chemical agents from new garments, treated with anti-fungals, flame-retardants, starches and fresh dyes, as well as the fumes from new plastics and packaging with which to contend. All of these factors combined can be a real problem for people with respiratory health issues or other sensitivities.
On this particular Sunday, while I am standing and sorting through items, I notice a woman across from me at the same, used-clothing rack. She is dressed very much as I am. I assume that she, too, must be fresh from church.
Gazing at me thoughtfully, she addresses me directly, “You know, you can really save a lot of money shopping here.” There is something hesitant about the way in which she opens the conversation—almost with an apology or embarrassment.
“Yes,” I respond quietly, nodding my head in agreement.
Then, she continues, “I am not used to seeing someone dressed quite so nicely across the rack from me.”
A kindness. I take a leap of faith in answering her, “I am also fresh from church.”
At this point in the conversation she describes some of the discomfort she feels about shopping in a thrift store and going to church in name-brand, gently used clothing. I describe for her something about the path that brought me to becoming a regular, secondhand-clothing shopper. We both agree that it is the most economical way to shop for name-brand clothing.
I continue the conversation, “We have found that we are able to tithe more because we choose to continue to shop in this way. Also, this particular store is run by a charitable organization. So, I think that it is a good thing to both donate and shop here. We are supporting a good cause. Not to mention that purchasing secondhand things is better for the environment.”
“Yes, I hadn’t thought of it from that perspective,” she admits. Her hesitancy is fading.
Then, I mention one of the ways in which we use our extra money to support others who are in greater need than ourselves.
“Yes. Yes, I could see that angle,” she says, considering what I have said. “Anyway, it was nice talking with you.”
There should be no shame attached to how we choose to economize and honor ourselves spiritually. Social norms often disregard the ways in which it is easiest for us to take care of ourselves, protect the environment and serve others, as we work to recognize our inherent Oneness.