Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Once a week, I volunteer two hours at a thrift store run by my Church. For two hours, I unpack clothes, refold them, hang them up, arrange knicknacks on shelves, throw out less desirable donations and straighten the shelves. Each week, I look forward to going. I am often asked why I do this, why would I work for free?

There are many answers, but the most telling would be that my time there puts me in touch with part of my community that I might not otherwise get to know. I've come to be comfortable with a large black man always wearing a construction helmet, talking to himself and shouting at cars that pass by. That's "Porkchop", a sort of dubious celebrity in our town.

I've exchanged buenas tardes with Angelica who tells me the sweet story of how her non-English speaking father could not understand why everyone stared at him when he wore his esposa's sweatshirt, until it was explained to him that it read "World's Greatest Grandmother".

I worry over the morbidly obese woman who can hardly walk, but even more worrisome, has a van so packed with garbage with a space only big enough for her body that I wonder if she is a hoarder. She buys more stuff even as we are closing.

Sometimes, I marvel at the two black women friends that come in, so enjoying each other's company and talking up a storm, and that with my white ears, I can't understand them at all. They have a secret language.

John wasn't in this week. He's Hispanic and friends with Chuck, my co-worker. John washes dishes at local restaurants and seems to be alone here. I wonder how he came to our area.

The woman who mops the floors at McD's stops by with a friend, their English non-existant. They're followed by a man who sweeps through daily, looking only for Derby glasses. Another regular laments that she hasn't found anything to buy that day, yet another day asks me how she can keep from collecting more things and learn to discard.

This week, an Amish woman and her baby came in. I dared to ask her (not wanting to intrude) if she was with the men painting the bank in town? Yes, she told me, that was her husband. I told her truthfully that they were doing a beautiful job and that it was appreciated. She smiled widely, but said nothing. I noticed that Amish do not have very nice teeth, or at least she didn't, young though she was.

I get to see Raidy and RuthAnn, the elderly couple who runs the store, who would otherwise not be of my acquaintance. RuthAnn tells me how happy she was that I was in her line at Communion last week. Chuck talks to William, who is always with me, and says that he saw a boy dressed fancy at Church last week that looked like William. "That was ME!" William squeals.

So in this rich, 98% white county, I see a richness in diversity in a small shop on a side street. Do you not see that I am the one that receives?

Farm Notes

In my last blog, I wrote ""Miniature horse foals cannot walk upright on laminate flooring in the basement. Ask me how I know." Dawn wrote: How do you know? Well, Dawn, the foal will slip under the electric fence and come running anytime she sees a human. One day she was with me while I worked in the garage, and I forgot she was there. Our garage is a walkout from our basement, and forgetting she was there, I walked into the basement to put away a toy, leaving the door open . The next thing I knew a terrible clatter, much like Santa's reindeer on the roof, was in the room with me. It was Roxie, who'd followed me in. I had to support her weight to get her out, as the laminate floor was like ice to her hooves.

Ginny, Anna's horse, has gone to training at a local farm. We drove her there with her best bud, Quid (Lauren's horse), put her in a stall, and prepared to leave. That's when the fireworks began. She is quite pushy and buddy-sour, aside from the general issue of needing more training. We expect it to take at least several weeks. The other horses will surely miss her.

There are dead leaves everywhere. I hate dead leaves. I love the fall. What a contrast in sentiments.

Got the horse trailer fixed - lights, brakes, broken window. I wonder if Walmart needs night help?


Mary said...

You know, Cathy, I live in a pretty homogenous white area also. At least from those that are visible as home owners, out at the coffee shop and the bank, this area is mostly pale skinned. However, if I look at those who serve us or those who look less prosperous, their ethnic background is very diverse like greater Los Angeles is. If you and William did not go to the thrift store, you might not have occasion to speak with people whose skin color was not like yours except for "more coffee, please." We don't have any household help except for the fellows who mow the front lawn. They are hispanic. Over our four years here, we have had some crews in to do specific jobs, such as install the AC/heating system. Those men were primarily Russian. I learned from the one who came from the same firm to work on our fridge, that they are also Jewish.
You have inspired me to open my eyes when I am rushing around and speak to whoever I can, even if it is just a nod, which lets them know that I see and appreciate them. As an older woman, I know what it is like to feel invisible and it must be even more divisive to see people who don't "see" me because of the color of my skin.

pita-woman said...

I took the advice you gave a few weeks ago about visiting the Agape Shop, and did so this past week (before we went on vacation), and found a couple of childrens sleeping bags. I think they cost me a whole $2.00, if that. So far, the dogs haven't ripped them apart... best $2 I've ever spent. I'll check back from time to time for more doggy blankets.
The few minutes I was in there, I too saw quite a diverse bunch of shoppers, so I can only imagine what you see while you're there.


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