Garage Sales and a Stranger’s Legacy

I love garage sales and thrift stores. The challenge of finding a good deal or repurposing something old is a fun hobby that I acquired from a roommate after college. One of my favorite finds was a set of Farberware Pots and pans that I got for a few dollars at a garage sale. They were charred from a failed attempt at cooking.   After a little elbow grease and a bit of steal wool, they have become staples in my kitchen.

Now that Mark is running around the house, I don’t visit thrift stores and garage sales as frequently anymore. However, there was an estate sale in our neighborhood recently. I couldn’t pass up the convenience of the opportunity, so I put Mark in the LILLEbaby Baby Carrier (I LOVE this baby carrier) and checked it out.

As you can see, Mark was pretty exhausted after the estate sale. :)

An estate sale is typically held when a family is trying to purge of a large number of household goods, often the entire house’s contents. Many times this is done after someone passes away, but there are also a number of other reasons to hold one.

There is something strange about seeing someone’s entire life laid out for sale. The tables, couches, clothes, dishes, books, and décor, covered with memories, are spread out around the house. Each item has a price tag and complete strangers browse mementos that represent someone’s entire life.

As Mark and I wandered around the house, I was again reminded that we aren’t guaranteed any number of days in our life and that we don’t take anything with us when we die. All the items that we spend a lifetime accumulating will remain here long after we are gone.

On the other hand, our belongings are not the only things that we leave behind. We also leave a legacy of choices, whether good or bad, that impacted those in our lives. Many of the decisions we make and interactions that we have over the course of a lifetime affect friends, family, acquaintances, and even complete strangers.

After casually chatting with a few people at the estate sale, I learned that the man who lived there was gracious to his neighbors and generous with his time. He frequently volunteered in the community and never spoke poorly of others. Those are admirable character traits, and he has clearly left behind a legacy of kindness. I have no doubt that others have chosen to follow his lead and give of their time to help others.

It is important to me to live a life of purpose that is centered in my faith. Those beliefs have shaped all of the major choices that I have made thus far in my life, and I pray that they will continue to do so in the future. I believe that our choices, both big and small, matter. They influence our lives and those around us. The words we choose have the power to encourage or discourage people with each interaction. Where we choose to spend our time, whether volunteering, with family, or even in front of the TV, can also influence people.

I often think about the impact that Isabelle has had on my life and the lives of others. I have no doubt that many people, myself included, have grown in faith because of her short existence. If her brief life can impact people in such a significant way, imagine how much five, twenty, sixty, or ninety years of choices can influence other people in either a positive or negative way.

I think it is good to periodically evaluate the type of person we have become in life, the choices we have made, and how we impact those around us. What kind of legacy will you leave behind? Will it be one centered in love, service, and faith? Self-reflection is imperative for self-improvement. If we want to strive to become better people, we must periodically assess how we are doing.

Many Catholics use an Examination of Conscience daily or weekly to reflect on their lives. It is a practice I admit I should do more frequently.

For those unfamiliar, an Examination of Conscience is a series of questions, typically based on the Ten Commandments, which are read and reflected on prayerfully. The questions are intended to help assess the choices that you make and determine the areas of your life in which you may have formed sinful habits.

For several different examples of an Examination of Conscience, click here.

I came home from the estate sale with a few bowls, an extension cord, a staple gun, and a renewed focus on the choices I make in life. It is pretty impressive that a man I never met and the belongings that he left behind were able to give me a fresh perspective and a new mindset for the remainder of Lent. I pray that someday I can leave behind the kind of legacy that will merit the comment, “Well done, good and faithful servant” from the big guy upstairs.  (Matthew 25:23)

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