Thursday, March 01, 2012

Resale, Religion and The Deadly Stink Eye

I scored a wonderfully worn and damaged dictionary, a couple of hand crocheted pillow covers, some linens, shower curtain hooks that will never see a shower curtain, an old cheese grater because I saw someone on Pinterest hang earrings on hers, and a few random pieces of silver plated flatware. All for $25 and some change.
Yesterday I had to go to the grocery store which is a chore I truly deeply hate. In order to motivate myself to go I usually try to connect it with something fun such as....oh I don't know.....maybe stopping at a thrift store on my way? It helps to take the sting out of the grocery shopping.

I went to the shop down the street from me that I just discovered a couple of weeks ago. It's called Cypress Christian Ministry Donation & Resale. The guy who owns it (or at least I presume he owns it) is Indian or Pakistani and struggles a little with English grammar as you can see from this sign in the parking lot:

Bless his heart, he's just as sweet as can be and slightly clueless to go along with it. The store is crammed full of unorganized junk and most of it isn't priced. When I find something I want I take it to the counter and ask Mr. Owner how much the item is. He picks it up and studies it as if he was a jeweler trying to determine the value of a rare diamond.

Then almost every time he says, "I don't know this might be antique. Do you think it's valuable?" I'm not making that up, he seriously asks me if I think it's valuable.

To which I reply, "I have no idea," and that's the honest truth.  I wouldn't intentionally try to cheat anyone. I'm cursed with a conscience. 

Then he will say, "What do you think...about $2.99?"

Most everything in the store is under $5.00 which I think is fair for most things, but I visit a lot of thrift stores so if I know I can get a similar item cheaper some place else I might not be too quick to agree to his price. If I hesitate or wrinkle my forehead he will say, "Or maybe $1.99?"

I'm not looking for valuable items in the traditional sense. Occasionally I'll find something in a junk store that I think might be valuable but I'll only buy it if it inspires me. Of course by the time I get through with it I will have ripped, painted, aged, stained, altered or otherwise stripped away any value the the item may have ever had. An old water damaged dictionary with covers that are falling off and missing pages is more valuable to me than the Limoges plates I pass up all the time. A girl can only use so many cake stands and at 4 I think I'm at my limit.

Me and Mr. Owner were getting along great until he felt the need to point out that all the winter clothes were 50% off. I wasn't in a clothes shopping mood but felt it couldn't hurt to browse through so I asked him where the winter clothes section was. He said the winter clothes were mixed in with all the spring and summer clothes.

Okay fine, he has too much stuff in the store and not enough room to organize it so he probably just considers everything that's heavy or has long sleeves to be a winter item. His prices are so cheap anyway that I would never bother arguing over a shirt with 3/4 sleeves which could go either way.

But then Mr. Owner made a mistake that evidently they didn't teach him about in man school in India. While he was attempting to explain how the clothes were "arranged" on the racks and where the women's sections were, he looked at me and asked, "What size do you wear?"

OMG. If I had been carrying concealed I would have shot him between the eyes. I could not believe he asked me that. I tried to just write it off as cultural differences and I convinced myself that he didn't know any better so I should do the kind Christian thing and let him live.

But then he had the nerve to stand there and wait for my reply. It wasn't a rhetorical question, he actually expected me to tell him what size clothes I needed. Any man with a lick of sense would have immediately backtracked (if he had not been knocked unconscious by my stink eye) and said, "Oh nevermind. I can see that you're an extra small so your section would be right here."

As I was angrily flipping through the clothes in the definitely not extra small section and thinking that Mr. Owner should have just gone ahead and asked me how old I was and if all my teeth were my own, I was distracted by a very chatty Muslim woman who came in to buy a cell phone charger. I couldn't help but overhear her conversation with Mr. Owner and his new girlfriend who is from Bangladesh and doesn't speak any English. Mr. Owner and the Muslim woman (who both spoke Bengali so the girlfriend didn't feel left out) had a long conversation about culture and religion here in the U.S. The woman was middle eastern but I never did catch exactly where she was from. I'm not a very good eavesdropper. Mr. Owner wasn't the least bit shy about asking her questions such as why she wasn't wearing a hijab and if she had Christian friends back home. She seemed very excited to answer all his questions and appeared to genuinely love talking about it.

It was fascinating to listen to the two of them talk about how diverse religions are tolerated and accepted among the people (maybe not so much the government) of their far east and middle eastern homes much more so than here in the U.S., the land of the free. The woman has friends back home who are Muslim, Christian, and Hindi and all are welcome in her family's home. She has faced nothing but discrimination because of her heritage and religion here in the U.S. I was a little embarrassed about that.

I had to give Mr. Owner mental props for not trying to convert the Muslim woman right there on the spot or explain to her how "wrong" her religion is. He is obviously a Christian and his store is part of a ministry. All of us Christians want everyone to know about Jesus and the love He has for them. Unfortunately some well-meaning overzealous Christians forget that it can take time for Jesus to work his way into someone's heart and He rarely finds His way there by being shoved down their throats.

Did I just get all preachy?? I did, didn't I? My bad. I get frustrated at those Christians who make the rest of us look bad. Or even worse, they make my Jesus look bad.

Because Mr. Owner did a fine job of making his Muslim customer feel welcome, I was pretty sure she would come back to the store and maybe develop a friendship with Mr. Owner and Miss Bangladesh. This might eventually lead her to want to know more about Christianity so I decided to be like Jesus and forgive Mr. Owner for his unforgivable question. I'm just all gracious like that.

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