The Community Church of the Open Door “did something awesome.” They had a church-wide garage sale. Except at this garage sale, everything was free to anyone in the community who needed it.
The Bangor Daily News‘ Nok-Noi Ricker reported on the event at the Hampden, Maine, church:
Hundreds of items, donated by church and community members, disappeared fast during the free yard sale.
“We started at 9 [a.m.] and we’re pretty much down to nothing and it’s only like 10:30,” said church member Holly Cain, of Dedham.
Cain, her husband, Zach, and fellow organizer Esther Littlefield of Glenburn are on the church’s missions team. Around 20 church volunteers, including 4-year-old Eli Cain, helped to set up tables, display items and help people load the items they selected.
“We hope to make it an annual event,” Littlefield said.
People were so excited about the free yard sale, “We had people already here at 7:30 a.m.,” she said. Some participants offered money for the free items, but their offerings were turned down. The event was not about raising money, it was about giving back to the community, Littlefield said.
I’m hoping they do make this an annual event — and maybe even figure a way to partner with the local Goodwill Industries of Northern New England (there’s a shop just up the road from the church), which provides a similar service for the community while also providing employment and employment training for people who need that too.
Hemant Mehta says this church’s cool event “falls under the category of ‘Things Christians Do That Atheists Need to Copy.'”
I’d say it may even fall under the category of Things People Do That Everyone Needs to Copy.
My old buddy Dwight Ozard and I used to collect every story we could find of efforts like this, every example of people doing “something awesome.” We hoped that by sharing those stories, we could encourage others to copy them, replicate those ideas and efforts elsewhere and multiply their effects like loaves and fishes.*
Maybe we should start doing that here — collecting stories of awesome things that anyone, anywhere might be able to copy. Some of those might be Big Things that it might take some resources or expertise to pull off. Others might be tiny-seeming smaller things that don’t require any of either.
Part of the point, though, is that there are tons of things we can do that don’t require permission. We can do things that don’t require the approval of 60 senators, or of the platform committee of the national party, or of any elected officials, referees, blue-ribbon panels or boards of deacons. And those things can matter. Those things can be awesome.
So, OK then, might as well start with this one:
No. 1 Yard Sale Giveaway
Here’s that Maine church’s description of their “Great Giveaway!” event:
Hundreds of donated items will be given away, on a first-come, first-served basis, to individuals and families in need. From books and games to appliances; housewares and furniture to clothing; everything must go and everything is FREE! Whether you’ve items to share or items to find, bring your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers … for this community outreach.… To donate new or gently used and clean items of any kind, bring items to CCOD to be stored until the event (call ahead to be sure someone is here), OR deliver items on the day of the event to the CCOD parking lot, no later than 8-9AM. Please, sort your donations of clothing or shoes and mark them for adults or children. Be sure that no donated item is missing parts or in disrepair.
So the basic steps there seem to be:
1. Collect stuff to give away;
2. Advertise the give-away; and
3. Give the stuff away as advertised.
Not too complicated. The complicating factors might include finding a place to store the “inventory” while it’s being collected, and finding a large, accommodating site for the giveaway itself (that bit probably will require asking permission).
The other potentially complicating factor is what is sometimes politely called “The Garage-Sale Community,” also known as Big Flea Market. You don’t want to collect stuff for the giveaway only to have some professional flea marketeer back up a truck and clear everything out in order to go resell it all elsewhere. I think most members of The Garage-Sale Community will respect the spirit of an event like this and allow people in need first dibs — most, but maybe not all.
Still though, a small group of friends, co-workers, classmates, teammates, regulars, fans, gamers, church-members or gang-members could pull off an event like this with a modicum of effort and enthusiasm. It could be, you know, kind of awesome.
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* We even put together a series of seminars focusing on such local, small-scale efforts by young people all over the country. That was back in the mid-1990s, when younger people were being derided as “slackers” by an older generation who saw our failure to march on Washington as confirmation of some supposed apathy.
As a dig at the “why, when we were your age …” complaints from those fogies I suggested naming our seminar “Slacker Activism.”
“Ooh,” Dwight said. “How about just … slacktivism.”
“That’s a terrible name,” I said.
“Yeah … so cheesy that it’s awesome.”
Dwight won. Turns out he made a new word, even if it didn’t wind up meaning quite what we meant by it.