The Art of the Thrift

Thrift stores. Love them. Doesn’t matter where they are or who the benefactors are from their operation. Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, Ollies, Bargain Hunt, Big Lots or Local Joe Bob’s Get It Here Cheap Store. I love them all!

As a pastor I might try to go all spiritual on you and say that I love thrift stores because the scripture teaches that thrift is a virtue. But I’d be guilty of the vice of half-truths if I tried to claim that one. Yes, being a good steward of the resources with which the Almighty has blessed us is something we should always be mindful of.  There’s a book full of quotable scripture around this topic, but if I tried to stand behind the Good Book in my celebration for thrift stores, you’d equate me with one of those glossy-haired, big-toothed TV preachers who was offering you a magic prayer cloth that guaranteed you a life-time free of gout and crow’s feet for the measly gift of just $100-a-week-for-life. As much as I’d love for you to give your church or any ministry you feel called to support $100-a-week-for-life, I know you’d smell the rot in Denmark if I tried to pull that one off. So, I’ll just be honest.

I love thrift stores because of the adventure of the journey. Like the famous line from the movie Forest Gump, I love thrift stores, because as with life as a box of chocolates “you never know what you’re going to get.”  Unlike grocery shopping where most people take a list of items to pick up, thrift shopping is an open book. Since the inventory changes constantly and comes and goes by some astrological math that only God knows, entering a thrift store is embarking upon an adventure of discovery.  As with all adventures, not everything along the path is interesting to every person.  There are certain aisles of a thrift store I’m likely to never explore. So, the art of the thrift and the adventure of the journey is unique to the person. No two people experience a thrift store the same way.  And because of the constant change in inventory, no person ever has the same experience twice in the same store.

All of this makes the art of thrifting something akin to the art of life. Life is an adventure if we’re open to it.  Certainly, the list makers among us may prefer shopping at a grocery store or a chain retailer because they want to know ahead of time what’s on the shelves of the stores they shop. Such people may not have the tolerance or the time to fish through a bin of unsorted items to find a precious bargain.  Paying retail seems less risky, takes less work and has at least some guarantee of results if product labels can be trusted. But in addition to the added financial cost, retail buying has the added cost of the loss of adventure.  If you always know what you’re going to get ahead of time, where’s the intrigue of discovery? Where’s the surprise? Where’s the adventure?

There’s a line in the theatrical play Auntie Mame where the world-traveling adventuress says, “Life is a bowl of cherries and most people are starving to death!” In other words, life without adventure isn’t very fulfilling.  So, live dangerously! Live the open book! Live the thrift store way!

St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:7, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” Walking by faith is kind of like thrift shopping, only with greater discoveries, greater adventure. Through faith, we are invited to the adventure of a life we could never plan, a life far beyond our schemes, a life with a full basket that we receive as a bargain because Jesus paid the bigger price to make the discoveries ours.  For this reason, I think God is fond of the art of thrift. We should be too.

Pastor Frank