My friend Ann agreed to co-chair our church’s bi-annual rummage sale this year. Having participated in three previous such events I looked at her as though she were smoking crack. (Is crack actually a thing any more?)
I calculated the number of volunteer hours required to pull off a rummage sale is in the neighborhood of 800 just in the week preceding the sale and the two days of the actual event. My allergies went into hyper-drive just anticipating the dust emanating from boxes of belongings closed up for decades. People love off-loading their bygone treasures and their junk. They also don’t’ hesitate to weigh in on the price. “What do you mean pricing those golf clubs at $40?! one man demanded. “I paid $400 for the driver alone!” Sorry pal, this is a rummage sale.
From a cost benefit analysis, I question whether it’s physically and financially worth it. “Can’t we just urge anyone who might volunteer to donate $50 to $100 and call it a day?” I asked. “We will probably make as much money.”
On one hand the money raised will go to support programming in our church. The First Congregational Church of Winter Park enjoys the distinction of being the first church built in Winter Park, Florida. The church was built by Congregationalists whose roots originated with the Puritans. Throughout the rummage sale I waxed on with visitors about our church’s progressive theology and historic mission of social justice. Our church founded Rollins College; our first minister was the first president of the college. We founded the first African American seminary in the area. Following a speech supporting integration, the KKK burned a cross on the church’s front lawn. Our church encouraged and supported the creation of The Jeremiah Project, a creative arts program for at-risk teens. Our youth mission trips take kids to communities in great need where hard work, respect, and compassion substitute for proselytizing.
On the other hand, my evenings, and those of many others, consisted of Epson salt baths to ease aching backs, sore feet, and pulled muscles. I also spent more than a couple Happy Hours with my hand wrapped around a cold glass of Sonoma Cutrer chardonnay once again questioning, “is this really worth it?” Two days hence as I pause to reflect on my 38 hours of labor, I would have to say yes.
Aside from the money raised to support our social outreach efforts, another equally compelling benefit is the camaraderie that develops among volunteers. Standing shoulder to shoulder with someone you might not have known well at the start of the week, devoted to the same task, creates a bonding experience. There is the shared exhaustion, shared laughter over particularly outrageous donations, shared food – those sugary Krispy Kreme donuts- how often at 66 do I allow myself to indulge in one of those cavity inducing confections?
In addition, as chronic multi-taskers, how often are we able to focus on one thing? Given the consuming nature of the sale, this became my single focus for the week.
I’m glad it’s over. But I kind of already miss my buddies. We created our own community. Fundamental to human nature is our need to belong. These kind of opportunities create a sense of belonging and community, the kind of community in which I want to live. I’ll be 68 on the occasion of the next sale. Here is hoping younger backs step up.