A Store Full of Stories

My wife and I were walking around a Goodwill Thrift store today, seeing if we could find anything that might be useful for our upcoming trip.

As I was walking down one of the aisles, the mug shown in the picture above caught my eye.

Here’s a closer look:

As I looked at the mug, I started to get a little depressed. I started thinking about possible reasons as to how the mug may have ended up at a thrift shop.

Did the mom pass away, and someone just packed up all the stuff in the house and brought it to the thrift shop? If so, was the son or daughter who went to William and Mary aware of the fate of the mug? If so, did they not want to keep it for memory’s sake?

Or perhaps the son or daughter never graduated from W&M, and the mom figured what’s the point in keeping the mug. If that’s the case, that seems a little cold as well. It was likely a gift from one of her children, and I know those are gifts I would never think to part with.

Or was the mom down on her luck, and she was just trying to sell as many of her non-essential household items as possible in order to get enough money to survive another day? If that’s the case, did she have one final cup of coffee in the mug before bringing it to Goodwill?

I thought of several other possibilities, all of them as unlikely as the above. I’ll never know the real story, but I’m sure there is a story there.

And as I walked away from the mug, I started to look at all the other items in the store in a different light.

  • How did that lamp end up here – what’s the story behind its journey?
  • What about that men’s suit. At one point, I’m guessing the owner liked the suit. So what changed, why is it now at a goodwill store? Does it no longer fit? Is the person retiring and no longer needs a suit?
  • How about that tea kettle? How many cups of tea did that serve, and what conversations was it privy to? I’m sure it still works, so why did someone unload it at a thrift shop?

I soon realized that everything in that store had a story behind it, and it would be fascinating to hear what they were.

That’s one of the things that makes a thrift shop unique compared to a general retail store. At a thrift shop you’re not only buying a product, but you’re buying the history and the memories that go along with that product.

You’ll probably never know what that history is, so why not make up a happy one.

Perhaps the suit that a recently retired person donated is bought by a young man for his first job interview,  the $30 price all he can afford at the moment. The interview goes well, the person gets the job, and his life is changed.

As noted on its web site, the mission of Goodwill is to enhance the dignity and quality of life of individuals and families by strengthening communities, eliminating barriers to opportunity, and helping people in need reach their full potential through learning and the power of work.

Every product it sells contributes to that mission, and to paraphrase Rod Stewart, every product tells a story.

As for that W&M mug:

Perhaps the mother who donated it had gotten it from her daughter while she was on a trip to the school while in fifth grade. The girl fell in love with the school and vowed to her mom that she would someday go to W&M, and the mug would serve as a constant reminder of her dream. Once she graduated from W&M 11 years later, the mom decided that the mug had done its magic in her household, and it was time to pass that magic along. She donates it to Goodwill, hoping that someday some young girl would be walking the aisles of the store looking to buy her Mom a Christmas present. She comes across the mug, buys it for her Mom, and tells her that one day the mug will be telling the truth.

 

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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