Yard sale

We had an impromptu rummage sale yesterday. We hadn’t planned on having a rummage sale. We have plenty of items that we need to shed, but we’ve mostly been getting rid of things by taking them to the Rescue Mission and Goodwill and trying to find things that friends want or need. However, our subdivision has periodic yard sales, where the homeowners association puts up signs and any homeowner can put things out in their driveway. A couple of days before the advertised sale, we started thinking of things that we could put out. Mostly we were thinking of things that we would give away for free, but then we thought of a few other things and before long we had quite a few things for the sale. We got up early and put out a couple of tables and assembled other items in groups on the driveway. We put prices on a few things and arranged an area of free items. Customers showed up early. Our first customers were an hour before the advertised start of the sale. By the official opening time of the sale, our inventory was significantly reduced. We didn’t care. We wanted to get rid of items. We laughed that the early customers were interested in storage items, such as plastic bins and shelves. I guess people who shop rummage sales early acquire a lot of things that need to be stored.

On one end of a table we placed some toys. There were a few things that our children had played with and a few items we acquired for visits from grandchildren. We’ve never been good at getting rid of things, so there was a hobby horse and a couple of stuffed animals and some puzzles and games, a couple of squirt guns and a few other assorted items. We put up a sign that said, “Toys: 50 cents if you are an adult; free if you are a child.” It was fun to watch the parents with their children. Most set a limit for their child. “You can choose one thing.” It really brought back memories for us of the days when our children were little.

Our children grew up with church rummage sales. When they were young, we’d give them each a dollar to spend at the rummage sale. Our son would carefully examine all of the items, add up prices in his head and finally make his decisions. Our daughter would go from item to item and select a lot of things, the prices would always add up to more than she had to spend. Then she’d take them up to the checkout and see what she could get for her dollar. We had to plead with the checkout clerks not to cut her any special deals. “Please,” we’d say, “We’re trying to teach her about money, don’t let her exceed her budget.” After those years of watching our own children and how they behave at sales, I’m drawn to observing children at sales each time I attend one. One girl started out looking at a stuffed animal, then saw a circus train, then a puzzle. She finally settled on a different stuffed animal. One boy rushed up, grabbed a squirt gun and then had to explain to his father that it was OK. “That man told me I could have it for free!” he exclaimed, pointing at me.

The fun of watching the children stirred my nostalgia even more. One of the things my father did in his life was to sell farm machinery. He was a John Deere dealer for 25 years. Alongside the big machines and the hard negotiations, the store carried a line of toy tractors. Our father put considerable energy into selling toys to children. He would take trade-ins and he would negotiate price. He saw it as a way of building a future customer base. He also enjoyed making deals with the children of his customers. My great uncle, who was our parts man, would repair and paint used toys in his spare time. We always had a big bin of used toys for the annual toys for tots drive was held.

Children develop their own patterns for shopping and making purchase decisions, but they also imitate their parents and other significant adults in their lives. It is a way for them to learn about the world of adult choices and actions. Usually they don’t have much money. Their decisions carry limited risk. There ar opportunities for them to learn from their experiences. Used toys might look appealing on the table, but have limited value for extended play. There are no chances to return items from a rummage sale. Once the purchase is made, the sale is final. Through the process, children learn about value and about making decisions.

We didn’t set up much of a learning exercise with our little yard sale. We didn’t have that many items to sell and the stream of customers was mostly adults. But there might have been a moment of joy for a few of the children who stopped by the sale. It gave us a way to extend our joy of ownership of a few of the items. By the time the sale was ended, we were feeling pretty good about our decision to put out some things for sale. It is the first time in 25 years of living in this house that we had participated in the neighborhood sale - the last sale before our house goes on the market.

Gracious God, we give you thanks and praise for the children of our neighborhood and those who came with their families into our neighborhood for yesterday’s sale. Their presence gives us joy. Watching them make choices helps us remember other children in our lives and how much we have learned by watching them learn. Bless the children, God. Help them to learn from their mistakes as well as their good choices. Give them adults in their lives who are good mentors and models for behavior and decision-making. Help us to discover how we might be blessings in their lives, just as they are blessings in ours. Amen.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!