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I wish the following were fiction. It’s not.
It’s an illustration of the kind of greed that pervades our society
and the kind of honor that defies it.
She was old and frail—a dark-skinned prune lady. But her eyes were kind. “I like to bake a lot,” she told me, and her eyes twinkled.
She was a bright spot in a dark day—yard sale, an exercise in being disappointed by people. We had posted a big sign: “All proceeds go for nursing home costs.” And with the variety of healthcare aids we had on display, our sincerity was obvious. But still they haggled.
“A dollar? I’ll give you fifty cents.”
“How about all these for five bucks?”
People who had plenty of money, plenty of time left to enjoy their youth, trying to force a fantastic deal—maybe gyp somebody into a bargain.
My heart sickened and grew dark and damaged like an old bruised banana as they fingered my mother-in-law’s treasures. They could see the mist in my husband’s eyes—an easy mark.
“I’ll take the whole stack for ten dollars.”
Humankind at its worst—small, mean, worshipping the dollar or quarter or dime. I hated them all. I wanted to throw them out—scream at them—walk away and let them loot elsewhere more honestly than here with their miserable loose change.
And then she came. Somebody’s black grandma. Hands that had molded a thousand pies, dried a million tears. And she didn’t quibble. She drew her precious dollar out of her change purse, delighted she had discovered a prize here—a set of pie plates, proud she could be generous enough to pay full price.
I didn’t quibble, either. I took her money with the same dignity and good humor she showed. We had both found something valuable.
I wanted to thank her for being, but she wouldn’t have understood. She simply was the person she had fashioned for herself. I loved her for her honesty. I loved her for being hope.
Your column about “The Yard Sale” was delivered a couple hours after the “Stop Thief” one that was sent earlier.
And it’s very well written . . . powerful, definitely touching and cleanly succinct.
Thank you so much for your compliments! They mean a lot coming from someone of your expertise.
So honest and raw. A slight departure? Love it. I am moved to tears – anger and sadness. Yes, we “quibble” over pennies whole hoarding our dollars. And yet, “she” appears as a reminder. We are not all lost. I’m grateful for the reminder today. I’m grateful for you. xx
Yes, this was a painful experience. Many years have passed, and I’m planning to share another yard sale with a friend. I hope we have a different experience. In the meantime, thanks for being the kind of honorable person who defuses raw greed.