Thrift shopper, peacebuilder

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Third Way Family

March 25, 2020 | Opinion | Volume 24 Issue 7
Christina Bartel Barkman | Columnist
'I can’t even count how many times our local thrift store has provided exactly what I was looking for.' (Photo courtesy of Facebook.com/mccthrift)

I was walking to church for an event a few weeks back and stopped by our local Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) thrift store for my usual weekly peek and to say hello to the dear ladies who faithfully volunteer their time.

I thought I might actually be leaving the store empty-handed for the first time ever, but, of course, something caught my eye as I was near the exit: a warm, brown, long puffy coat with a furry hood, just my size and only $5! I was so pleased with this perfect find that I wore it out of the store, feeling cosy, stylish and very thankful for the shopping habits I’ve been able to cultivate.

I can’t even count how many times our local thrift store has provided exactly what I was looking for—like the many sweaters I found after moving back from the Philippines and not owning any winter clothes; the Nike high tops I snagged for my seven-year-old; the cat T-shirt my daughter wants to wear every day; the Luongo goalie poster my nine-year-old loves; the hockey stick my husband wanted; and the board games that made perfect Christmas presents for the kids—to name a few!

While the joy of a perfect find at a fraction of the price is reason enough to shop thrift, there are so many more reasons our family buys most of our clothing, shoes, books and toys at thrift stores. 

Buying from MCC Thrift (and other charity thrift stores—MCC just happens to be my favourite) is a donation to a charity, so I consider it part of my monthly tithes. This gives me a whole different perspective on shopping, and honestly makes my purchasing experience so much more enjoyable and stress-free.

When I do buy new—I searched four different thrift stores for size-8 kids sweatpants last month and finally succumbed to buying new ones—I cringe, knowing my money is likely going towards a big corporation, adding pollution to an already stressed ecology, and supporting low wages and poor working conditions for workers around the globe.

When I shop at MCC Thrift, my money goes directly towards responding to basic human needs and working for peace and justice. This means I am contributing to efforts like bringing clean water to a refugee camp in Chad, trauma counselling to children affected by the crisis in Syria, resettlement support for new refugees in Canada, and training in diversified agriculture for farmers in Tanzania. This is impor-tant work that I get to partner with if I shop at MCC Thrift.

I have been following my friend’s blog, Thrift Shopper for Peace, for years now and I love how she describes thrift shopping as a way of active peacebuilding.

On her blog she writes: “When I donate and purchase at a thrift shop, I’m keeping things out of a landfill—making peace with the environment. When I volunteer, I am part of a community of people that I might not interact with otherwise—making peace in my community. When I support a charity by donating, purchasing and volunteering, I am helping to build peace at home and around the world. Supporting a shop that enables people of all income levels to own things of value is, to me, a peace value as well. And it doesn’t hurt that you save a ton of money when you shop thrift.”

Christina Bartel Barkman, with her four little ones and her pastor husband, seeks to live out Jesus’ creative and loving “third way” options.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some MCC Thrift shops have made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend operations or reduce hours. To find out if your local store is open, visit thrift.mcc.org/mcc-thrift-response-covid-19.

Read more Third Way Family columns:
Making things right
Giving up a dream
To the river
Choosing forgiveness
Rhythms of reconciliation

'I can’t even count how many times our local thrift store has provided exactly what I was looking for.' (Photo courtesy of Facebook.com/mccthrift)

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