Sunday, July 5, 2009

Flea Market Angel

We spent last Sunday at a traveling flea market which was being held in our area. We weren't shopping. We were selling. It was our first time to even attend one of these, so we didn't know what to expect. I had been reading about it, and thought it might be a good place to sell some of the items we didn't want to move. I also figured a little more cash for the move might be helpful.

When we arrived for set-up on Saturday afternoon, I soon discovered we didn't have nearly enough space rented for all of our stuff. We had four tables, but probably could have filled up at least 8. We also realized that the hour and a half that the manager had allotted for us to setup was not going to be nearly enough time. I was frantically unpacking boxes until he turned out the lights and told us we had to leave. While we were unpacking, I noticed the other vendors kept strolling by to see what we were selling. We actually sold a couple of things before I could even get everything out of the boxes. The next morning, when we arrived to finish setting up, we found another dealer at our table wanting to buy something. We were off to a good start, so we had high hopes for the day.

Being a girl, just setting things out on the tables wasn't good enough for me. I, of course, had to do some merchandising. I had set up the two tables at the front to hold the best merchandise. One table had glassware and linens and the other had home decor (which was sorted by color and style). One of the tables further back held holiday items and the other one had household goods and general junk. Actually, none of it was really nice stuff. It was all just things we had purchased at thrift stores or garage sales. There were only a few items which we had gotten new, and they had all been purchased for at least 75% off retail. ( I almost never pay retail for anything!) It was mainly stuff we didn't use, or even like anymore, which I knew we could easy live without. But it was all clean and neatly laid out on the tables.

Before the doors opened to the public, I breathed a silent prayer. It was something like, "Dear Lord, please help us reach our sales goal. But even if we can't sell anything, just let us minister to whomever shows up today. Help us to offer a kind word and a smile to anyone who needs it."

Once the doors opened, people began swarming in. There were lots of lookers. We noticed right away how careful they were being with their money though. People kept asking us if we would take less for our merchandise, and nothing we had was expensive. The highest priced item we sold all day was an aluminum kettle for canning which sold for $4.00. I had priced everything really low hoping to sell as much as possible. Customers were actually asking us if we would take less for things which were priced at $1.00 and $2.00.

We shouldn't have been surprised though, times are very hard where we are living. The unemployment rate is over 10%, and in certain sectors of the local economy, like manufacturing, the rate is significantly higher. The largest employer in this area is a global corporation which has laid off tens of thousands of employees worldwide, and many of those layoffs were local. People are simply hurting and desperately trying to stretch every dollar, but it was still the first time we have ever had anyone ask us to come down on a dollar item. We did whenever we could afford to.

We stayed busy throughout the morning. We were glad when our sales totaled more than it had cost to rent the tables. We were even happier when we sold enough that we had paid our rent and made enough to get back what we had originally invested in all our second hand goodies. Then we were thrilled in the afternoon when we realized we had even made a profit on our used junk. We were amazed at how good the flea market had been in spite of the economy.

We didn't realize however, just how good our sales had been until my husband talked to the dealer next to us. It turns out this man was a professional. He travels around the state selling merchandise at the different venues. He told my husband how much he had sold that day, and he hadn't made enough to even pay for his tables. We had sold 10 times as much as he had! I still can't believe it. We had actually made money, gotten rid of 8 or 9 giant boxes of stuff, and made some little old ladies very happy. Even if it hadn't turned out that way, it would have been a good day anyway because of the angel who came our way.

We had several repeat customers. Our tables were by the entrance. Ladies would come in and look at our stuff, maybe buy a thing or two, and move on. Frequently they would buy something else on their way out, which was great. There was this one lady who just kept coming back and coming back. The first time, my husband waited on her. The next time she came back, I wrapped and bagged her purchase for her. I think it was around her third or fourth trip to our booth, that we struck up a casual conversation. Eventually, she told us that she was actually a dealer there. She laughed that she was buying more from us than she was selling. Each trip she would buy one or two things from us. She would wait in line just to talk to me and ask me how she could display some of our stuff in her home if she bought. By the end of the day, she had purchased so much stuff from us, that I gave her a free set of 2 prim boxes she had been looking at but did not have enough money left to buy. When I turned around to give them to her, she hugged me with tears in her eye. She said to me, "You just don't understand. I don't have beautiful things like this in my house. I just can't afford them, but your prices are so low, that now I can have pretty things too."

By now, a giant lump was growing in my throat and tears were beginning to well up in my eyes. Here was my real blessing in this day. This sweet little old lady with a bad dye job, no front teeth, and mismatched clothes was my angel. She had just reminded me how blessed I truly am.

None of the stuff we were selling had cost us that much. Most of it had been castoffs from others before we even bought it at garage sales or thrift stores, but it was still nicer than what many people will ever have. God used this precious little angel woman to remind me that I am blessed.

Do I wish that we didn't have to move so that my husband could stay employed? Yes, I do. Do I wish that my daughter and I were both done with college so we would have enough money to pay all our bills all the time? Yes, I do. Do I wish that we were not carrying a mountain of debt in medical bills which will probably follow us all of our lives? Yes, I do.

But am I blessed even if these situations never get better? Yes, I am BLESSED. Today, my husband still has a job. We all have a roof over our heads. We have food on the table. The electricity and water are still on. We are all healthy now, and we are safe. When so many other people are doing without these basic essentials, we are very blessed to have them. Everything beyond that is just icing on the cake.

Take time wherever you are today, dear blogging friend, to count your blessings. Who knows, maybe God will even send you a flea market angel to lead the way.


  1. What a beautiful story - we sometimes just don't know how good off we have it until we see someone like this lady.
    She bought things someplace else to sell at the flea markets but still found wonderful things from you JUST FOR sweet.

  2. Thank you for your comment. You are right. It is easy to forget how lucky we are until someone reminds us.