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.
Why I Thrift Shop
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, it’s not all that uncommon for me to pray in thrift stores, either, albeit inconspicuously.
Thrift Store Therapy
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.
Inner Dialog with Heaven
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.
What seemingly ordinary activity is actually a form of prayer for you?
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About the Author:
Marge Fenelon is an award-winning and best-selling author and journalist, internationally-known speaker, and popular Catholic radio and TV personality. She’s the author of several books on Marian devotion and Catholic Spirituality including My Queen, My Mother: A Living Novena (A Marian Pilgrimage Across America), Forgiving Mother: A Marian Novena of Healing and Peace, and Our Lady, Undoer of Knots: A Living Novena (Guided Reflections from the Holy Land). Her podcast, Everyday Spirituality with Marge Fenelon, appears on Breadbox Media.