How can you see a community?

Check out the local thrift store.

My family enjoyed a great “beat the Kansas heat” vacation in Montana a few weeks ago.

While our husbands and kids were off backpacking on a feel nature / find yourself type of experience, my sister-in-law and I went second hand shopping.  (Note:  we aren’t wimps and can’t handle the hard core backpacking, we were just providing baby care.)

This is the crew out in the wild.


The crew back in civilization (my sister-in-law and I) checked out the thrift and antique stores in a Montana town…a little smaller than Newton…but nestled remotely in the Bitterroot Mountain Range.

I wanted to score some great kid mountain gear at second hand prices.  Sue likes the adventure and bargins that thrifting offers – so we set out (with baby) to seek out some deals.

What we bought:

  • Dishes that match the set back at the cabin
  • Nylon pants for both of my kids
  • a DVD for the VERY LONG car ride home

and we also got:   a real picture of the town

It stuck me that you get a real take on a community when you visit the local thrift stores.  Obviously, you see the local “stuff”…things that have been in the homes of people that live there.  But you also see the passionate volunteers and workers who value the mission of the store.  You hear the conversations between them and the “regulars” who come in often because they know the value of thrift.  You can see the relationships of these people as they talk about local events and issues, ask about their families and, “Do you think this shirt would fit Jackie?”

And so I was thinking about all this on the drive home as I was reading an essay by Barbara Kingsolver in Small Wonders.  She was writing about how national newscasts on television can leave us feeling (at times) helpless, overwhelmed, and ignorant of the real issue because of the multitude of agendas there may be.  This is something I need to think about more, but the part that really stuck me was this quote:

“I believe the those (needs) in my own neighborhood are the ones I need to attend to first, by means of casseroles and whatever else I can offer.  I also believe it’s possible to be so overtaken and stupefied by the tragedies of the world that we don’t have any time or energy left for those closer to home, the hurts we should take as our own.”

I came back from vacation with renewed energy in fostering our own little thrift store and helping it foster happy healthy families in our community.  I hope you hear those friendly and fun conversations when you come in the store.  I also hope you hear and see things that leave you feeling like people care for each other.

Earlier this summer I took this picture because it was so SWEET! …and it’s a great picture to show the friendly community atmosphere you find at Et Cetera.

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