By Marge Fenelon
I shop at thrift stores.
I know that’s not a novel idea—you probably shop at them as well if you’re cost-conscious and practical. Most of us can’t stand to pass up a good bargain, and thrift stores are full of them. We also like to support a good cause and many thrift stores are run by charity or service organizations, so we’re helping others by shopping there. As far as thrift stores are concerned, I’m sure we’re on the same page.
It’s the reason I thrift shop that makes the difference between you and me.
For me, thrift shopping is therapeutic. All of those other benefits—saving money, helping others, and so on—are just icing on the cake. I go there for all that, of course, but I also go because it helps me to relax, slow down and think. In fact, its not all that uncommon for me to pray in thrift stores, either, albeit inconspicuously.
I head out to the thrift stores when I’m exasperated and need to work something out. I go there, for example, when I can’t figure out how to finish a writing project or when someone has asked me a tough question and I didn’t have a ready answer for them. Or, I’ll go when I have to make a difficult decision or am perplexed by the way a relationship is going.
There’s something about filing through the racks of clothing that soothes me. Picking through the shelves one item at a time somehow helps the bits and pieces of my brain to reorganize and fall into place. When I’m in a thrift store, sorting through all of the merchandise, I’m in an in-between state, not quite here and not quite there. It gives me mental space and lets me push the pause button on my life until I get a grip.
All the while, I’ve got a dialog going on in my head between myself and our Lord or myself and our Blessed Mother. When I’m having trouble expressing myself, I mentally chant the Hail Mary. It acts like a mantra that calms me down and gets me to refocus. My “in-betweening” can become so intense that I’ve failed to notice a dear friend on the other side of the rack or right down the aisle from me.
I used to feel guilty about doing this. I mean, thrift shopping is a good thing, no doubt, but I used to feel guilty about working things out there rather than before the Eucharist. Oh, I still do go to Adoration and I absolutely love it; I yearn for it. Yet, my time before the Real Presence is different from my in-between time. When I’m before the Monstrance, I’m there entirely for Him. When I’m thrift shopping, I’m there entirely for me. Once I realized that, I stopped feeling guilty and started feeling grateful. Thrift shopping gives me the in-between time I both crave and need. That’s really why I go.
About the Author:
Marge Fenelon is a Catholic author, blogger, speaker, and journalist whose writing has appeared in dozens of media outlets including National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service/Faith Alive. She blogs regularly at National Catholic Register and is a columnist for the Milwaukee Catholic Herald. Marge is the author of several books on Marian devotion and Catholic family life, including Imitating Mary and Our Lady, Undoer of Knots: A Living Novena. She is a regular contributor on national Catholic radio programs and has also appeared on Catholic television.