When the winds started blowing last evening, I sent a message out to several people about whom I always worry, forwarding the NWS warning alert from my phone. One of the three acknowledged me; at least my effort hit one mark. I downloaded a book to my Kindle app and thought about the three tornadoes that I’d experienced, starting with the one that took out the orange wooden slide at my next-door-neighbor’s house when I was four or five.
I’d gotten out of my parents’ basement where we had all taken shelter. The father of the family next door saw me, ran out, scooped me up, and got us both to safety just before the twister hit. It took the hundred-year-old tree from our backyard and left it uprooted; the sliding board was found a few miles away. But I lived, saved by Mr. Hawkins, who spent the storm in our basement worried about his family, thanks to his noble efforts which took him away from them at the last minute.
I had a wonderful morning with my friend Pat yesterday, then set out in search of a couple of things that I want for my house and for my new satellite office. I decided to go way out to TurnStyles, the Catholic Charities thrift store. But before I could hit 75th and head west, I saw a promising garage sale and circled back.
A gangly man missing three top teeth greeted me. “If you see anything you like, let me know,” he urged me. “It’s all good stuff, ain’t no trash here.” Then he went to help a woman carry some chairs from the house. I wondered if it were an estate sale but the woman explained. She told me that she was from Central United Methodist church soliciting donated furniture for a refugee family. The homeowner, he of the wide grin, had donated a table that he had not intended to sell and several chairs from his basement. I told the woman that friends of mine attend the church and her face shone even more brightly. She knew them, of course; it’s a close community.
I offered some cash to help her acquire furniture but she pushed it away. “You’re very kind,” she protested. “But people in the neighborhood just give us things when we take in new families.” We talked for a few more minutes and then I spied a small lamp. It bore a five-dollar price tag, and I asked the man if it worked. He said, “I let an old lady from down the street put some things here, and that’s hers.” He gently lifted it from the card table and told me that he would test it and put a light bulb in it. A few minutes later, he tilted it to show me the illumination through the round top of the lovely shade.
I traded a five-dollar bill for the now-enhanced lamp, and the man said, “Now, I just retired and bought this house, but I’m real handy. If you ever need anything, come see me.” I asked if he had a card. He laughed, throaty, long and lovely. “Oh no, ma’am, I don’t need no card. I don’t charge and besides, all the people I do work for know me. Just come here,” he added, gesturing to his street. “They all know me.”
I promised that I would.
I put the lamp in the car and watched as the old man and the church lady resumed carrying chairs down to the curb where her vehicle stood. An hour later, I found the exact dining room light fixture that I wanted at Habitat Restore for $20 as opposed to the $200 that an internet lighting website wanted. I asked a clerk how I would know if it worked, and he gestured to its wiring. “There’s no way we can test fixtures, ” he remarked. “We take things on the honor system here. If it’s on the floor, whoever donated it told us that it worked.” I thank him for his honesty and bought the fixture.
I walked out of the store right at closing time, and looked back towards the last few customers paying for their purchases. The wide room had been dimmed; one worker still stood outside, receiving a donated table and chairs from a pleasant-looking couple. I watched the three of them carry the wooden dining set into the store, heard the murmur of their exchanges, saw the quiet smiles of the couple who came to donate something they no longer used.
As I carefully laid the fixture on the floor of my front seat, I thought about the concepts of up-cycling, re-cycling, and just plain using things until they’ve reached their natural life expectancy. I remembered a book that I read many years ago, called “God Don’t Make No Junk”. I looked at the little five dollar lamp sitting on the back seat. The face of the man who sold it to me rose in my mind, and I found myself smiling. Ain’t no trash here, Mister, I thought.
Then I drove home to await the storm.