When Sue and I moved out to our place in the country, we put our house in town up for sale while we worked on fixing up the country home. Considering the real estate market, especially in Michigan, we expected to wait a couple of years for a sale, which was OK because of all the work we had to do to get the new place into shape. Well, we got lucky. Our house sold within a couple of months, which left us scrambling to get things done.
Rather than the orderly, step-wise process we envisioned, we sort of jumbled all the tasks together, not the least of which was letting go of all of the things we needed to get rid of to fit into our new, much smaller, house. Although we got rid of a fair amount of stuff, we ended up moving enough to fill the garage so full that our cars went homeless. We thought we had made a big mistake, hauling all this stuff out to the new place just to get rid of it.
After helping Sue’s mom with her own garage sale, the last thing we wanted to do was to have another one, but it was either that or give up on the garage entirely. So we took the plunge. We put ads in the local papers, a posting on the local Craig’s list, and set up some tables for the big day. I fully expected a long, quiet day of reading.
What we got was just the opposite. We had set the start time for 10:00, refusing to give up our typical leisurely Saturday wake-up time. That didn’t stop the eager beaver who pulled into our drive at 7:00 before quietly pulling back out again. It didn’t stop the couple who pulled in at 8:00 as we were setting up, insisting that the paper indicated an 8:00 start. We double-checked the paper, which read the correct time of 10:00, but relented and let them look. They were true enthusiasts, and in that first sale we made back our entire cost of advertising and signage.
I drove down the road to post the signs, and it seemed as if people just followed my car back to our place. Almost from the minute I pulled back into the driveway, people flocked in. It slowed around noon, but didn’t stop all day long. There was at least one car in the drive all day, and about ten during the rush times.
And what a collection of folks! We had local farmers, people who made their living selling firewood or cutting up venison, we had retired folks, autoworkers, people visiting the local lakes, and mini-vans full of kids. Every one of them had a story and a smile to share, whether they bought anything or not.
A lot of them didn’t even come to buy. They came to visit, to connect with their new neighbors, to see what we had done with the place, and to let us know we were welcome. “We’re just down the way, across the road from the big place with the stone retaining wall. If you need anything, just let us know. Oh, that’s a nice piece. Is it Depression Glass?” was the sort of comment that we heard repeated in various forms all day long.
If it was a mistake to haul the stuff out to our new house, it was the best mistake we could have made. It was connection, a wicker basket excuse for our new neighbors to drop in for a first visit. It was connection, the way a barn dance or a barn raising or a nature walk is an excuse for people to confirm their shared experience and mutual support. It was worth every dime, every paper tear and muscle pull that it cost us to haul the stuff over and set it up. We got paid much more than we ever expected.
We got paid in community.