I must admit, I am a late convert to the joys of the op-shop. The opportunity shop.
For overseas readers, the charity store.
My English Mum used to call it the Olly Olly shop. I never went in one as a child. There was a real shame attached to going into op shops in those days. Only poor people went in op shops. If only my parents had spent more time in op shops, we wouldn’t have been poor people!
My girlfriends have been trawling op shops for years. I could never understand why. ‘Why would you want someone else’s junk? But now I’m older and wiser, and an avid recycler, and I now see the true beauty in finding a treasure that nobody else wants, for a song. I love to shop, and I love to bring beautiful things into my home. But I loathe crass commercialism and having things that everyone else has. I am in nesting mode and I am getting ready to leave one home and move into a place closer to the city after 8 years in the country.
I’m being gentle with myself and hunting through op-shops, looking for treasures that I can take into my new place, to baptise it, so to speak, and give me a sense of creating a new space, a new creative and nurturing home as I leap into the next adventures in my life.
So, seeing an Op Shop sign as I drive through an unfamiliar area is always an excuse to stop and have a quick rummage and have a chat to the lovely, elderly (mostly) ladies who give up their time to staff these fund-raisers for the local communities in which they live.
I like to spread my donations around, so I’m not always taking my stash to the one store. I like to give to the Animal Liberation Op Shop in Burwood and I love the Salvos – what wonderful stores. But sometimes I’ll go into unchartered waters and today I was in the Epilepsy Op Shop in Kew.
Not the sort of place you’d generally head to for a fun time, admittedly. Let’s face it, you’re not going to inspire a bunch of mates to meet you there for a rummage. But I felt compelled to see what it had to offer.
Never been there before. But I was on a roll! Driving through Kew, I’d already snaffled a silicon cake ‘tin’ for $5 and a gorgeous green vase for a few coins and a chat with the boisterous senior citizen in charge – always the high point!
But at the epilepsy op shop today, I met a young man, around 20 perhaps, not much older than my son.
I asked him why he was there – in a cold, dark op shop on a lovely sunny spring Melbourne day.
“I don’t know. I just felt I needed to do something”.
He told me he was studying commerce at Melbourne Uni and in that one sentence, my heart was lifted.
Here was a young guy, a Gen Y? Or a Gen Z? A young bloke giving up his time to be in an old op shop with an image problem. Not a hip young Salvos. A dusty old blast from the past op shop that smelled like 1950s. I bought a heart shaped necklace for $6.
And I left, knowing that I would write about him, just because I wanted to share how wonderful I felt after meeting him. We only exchanged a few sentences.
But actions speak louder than words.
He volunteers his time every Tuesday morning, and he’s a full-time student.
He impressed me. And I thought about his parents, and how proud I hoped they would be knowing that they had raised a son who has a sense of duty for his community.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Someone has influenced him. And if it’s not his parents, then I send blessings to the adults who have inspired this young guy to be a shining example of the New Age.
Be of service. Open your heart. Offer to help. When we do this, our whole lives change. I’m living proof.
Meeting this young man today made my day.
And I came home with some great booty for under $20.
Life sure is good!