This weekend our church held its annual yard sale -- our Mack daddy, full-tilt-boogie annual fundraiser -- on the front lawn of one of our parishoners' family farmsteads.
Fellow Traveler and I took our turn staffing the enterprise. (And FT went above and beyond by helping set up earlier in the week, a task that was a lot more arduous than sitting behind the cashier's table.) We had a lot of fun, shilling among the shoppers ("A buck a bag! Fill a bag for a buck!") and pawing through the merchandise and eating a lot (one of the perks of working our yard sale is the grub -- sloppy joes made by our youth group and various baked goodies).
But as amusing as the weekend was, it was also sobering to see the level of need in our community. I'm a veteran of about six of these sales, and I think the desperation quotient of the bargain hunters was as high as I've ever seen it. People are hurting financially in my part of the world, big time.
Someone had donated a pair of wobbly old end tables to our sale. They'd sat languishing for the first day of the sale. Then a woman showed up, young kids in tow; she was a grandmother, she told one of our workers, raising her grandkids because her own adult child's life was in chaos. This woman bought several bags of kids' clothing. Then she asked about the end tables, which had a "make an offer" sign on them.
"Well," our colleague said cheerfully, "the sign says make an offer."
"I can give you a dollar," the woman murmured. Then she began to cry.
She got the end tables. And we threw in an old television.
This is what life looks like in rural America these days.