Vocation: Serving in Thrifty Threads
[Following is the transcript of a homily delivered by congregation member Linda Percy on July 24, 2016. No audio is available.]
For those who may not know me, my name is Linda Percy, and I have been coming to the United Parish for almost thirty years.
During this time, I have served in many areas - the Board of Deacons, Financial Development, Board of Outreach, Mission Giving, among others. These are all areas in which I have enjoyed serving and working with wonderful people.
I also worked in the City of Boston’s Mayor’s Office for thirty years as the administration and finance manager, and volunteered on many political campaigns and women’s groups working on topics such as comparable worth and equal pay.
I missed, however, a personal one-to- one connection in my volunteer work and so for several years volunteered in the nursery at Brigham and Women’s hospital working with newborn babies, many of whom would not be going home for a while.
Volunteering was such an integral part of my life that it was the topic of my master’s thesis.
Through the literature search and the oral histories I gathered, I learned that volunteers, while not getting a cash paycheck, are rewarded in other ways, while answering the call we all get, the call to service. We are all called to sing each other’s praises and tend each other’s bruises.
So when Kent asked me to share my passion about Thrifty Threads, why I feel called to work 10-15 hours a week there, it made me ponder. Why do I feel this calling so intensely?
First let me tell you a bit about Thrifty Threads. It is Brookline’s only thrift shop, located upstairs in the Guild Room. It is open each Friday and Saturday from 11 to 4. It began 18 years ago as a fundraiser and avenue of support for the Memorial Park, next door to the church. It has since continued, with a mission to provide a place for people to buy affordable, gently used clothing.
We raise about $11,000 a year for the church. That is a good thing. We tithe 10% of our income to the church’s emergency fund. That is a very good thing. But there is so much more to Thrifty Threads.
We are the original Green program at UP. We donate clothes that we cannot sell here to Boomerangs in Jamaica Plain, or if appropriate, to the animal shelter to use as bedding for rescued animals. We send some men’s clothing to Haley House in Roxbury, for needy men in their training programs.
In addition to the ten hours a week we are open, we spend hours sorting donations and Betty Lindsay and I often take home clothes that need washing and ironing.
But, enough about the shop itself, there is also so much more happening there that speaks to me, calls me, and fulfills me. Pastoral happenings. Human connections.
When I ask is God calling me? Is God there in Thrifty Threads? I first ask who or what is God to me? To me, God is the very essence of all of us who were, who are, and who are yet to be.
I see God in many places in Thrifty Threads,
I see God in the face of the Chinese woman who comes in to buy jewelry and gather the broken pieces we save for her. She makes bracelets and necklaces for girls in an orphanage in China for girls. These pieces are the only jewelry these girls will ever have.
I see God in the face of Marge Harvey, an 86-year old retired social worker who comes in every week to sit and chat, and who now comes to concerts and special services here. And does not leave without giving us her special “Marge hugs!”
I see God in the face of the young mother who comes in with her children and counts out change to pay for her purchases (which we quietly discount.)
I see God in the face of the social workers who come in from Brookline Mental Health to get the clothes we donate for their clients.
I see God in the face of the young students from Brookline High who have challenges and come in with their mentor to work for a few hours.
I see God in the face of Gino, a retired Italian gentleman who, like clockwork, is sitting on the bench outside, in his yellow baseball cap, waiting for us to open up on Friday mornings.
I see God in the face of some of our customers who faced great difficulties and then shared their success with us. Seamus, a young army veteran who had everything stolen, including his identification when he came to Boston. He was living in a shelter and came to us for clothes. Then he moved into his own room in a group home and needed sheets and towels. Lo and behold, we had sheets and towels donated that week, a rare occurrence. It is amazing how often something is donated just before it is needed. When he was accepted in a training program at Pine Street Inn he came to tell us and thank us.
I see God in the face of the little Russian lady who comes in looking for little gifts for her friends. She calls me her mamushka and gives me hugs.
I see God’s smile in the faces of the children who come in here and run for the toys and draw pictures for us to put on our bulletin board. 5-year old Chelsea made several pictures for us yesterday. A laughing 3-year old Owen runs in ahead of his mother to give us even more hugs.
And, I see feel God’s sadness when someone comes in looking for help because they need food, or have lost everything in a fire.
I find God in the extended family of Thrifty Threads, where I have found a place that allows me to find my “spiritual paycheck,” to live out the message in Matthew 25 where we are called to welcome strangers, to clothe and feed them, and tend their bruises.
I cannot cure world hunger, clothe and feed all the homeless, but I can open my eyes to what is in my path, and by tending to those needs, touch my own heart. I feel God’s presence in Thrifty Threads like the gentle touch of a friend’s arm around your shoulder.
Namaste. The divine light in me bows to the divine light in you.