Each week at our charity shop, we meet new people, like we did this past Saturday. A man came in with 4 children, and in the course of conversation, I found out they had a 5th one at home – a one month old baby! I loved that each child found something they could buy, as well as the dad. I gave them a brochure about us and hope they'll be by again!! Often many of the faces that come through our doors on a weekly basis are what I would call our “regulars”. And what I've realized is that behind every money/goods exchange, there is a story. Our partner, Tomislav, always encourages our volunteers to not just have a money/goods exchange with someone, but to offer to make a cup of coffee or tea and take the time (if possible) to sit down and have a conversation with someone.
So, today pretend you're having a cup of coffee and get to know some of the stories that come through our shop on a weekly basis.
(In order to protect their privacy, I've listed only the first letter of their names)
Z has become more than a shopper - she is a friend. She has even made a Croatian special dish for our volunteers one Saturday just out of the kindness of her heart! Z also has uterine cancer. We tell her we're praying for her. Join us in prayer!
H lost his wife about 7 months ago and is lonely. The main way he makes income is to look through trash for valuable items he can sell, like plastic drink bottles. He buys new clothes from our shop each week, and tells us that it's easier for him to buy new clothes than to wash them.
T was removed from her home when she was only 15, and since then has lived on her own and has no income. She has taken on many odd jobs to make ends meet, but she is barely making it.
N comes in with her son and husband, who was out of work for a while. N knows exactly how much money she has spent at our shop, down to the lipa ("penny") because they count every lipa. We were really excited to hear the other day that N's husband has found a job!
L comes in and buys things regularly. She works hard to provide for her family, and she has expressed how excited she is that she can now do that easier from shopping at our shop.
I's two daughters came to our English Club this summer. They love coming from time to time to find things they need for the family. They are a sweet family, and have asked us when we're doing another English Club!
V came in once and told me how excited she was that she and her boyfriend found a place they could bring things to, that wasn't what they felt a “shady” place where volunteers keep donationed, instead of making them available to the public. V shared how her mom was British, and how excited she is to be able to use her English!
B comes in every week. She's retired, sweet, and loves to talk about her son. Once while I was waiting on her, she gave me all that was in her wallet, even though it didn't reach the amount I quoted. Right away she was apologetic and said her pension hadn't come in yet. I smiled at B and told her that of course not to worry about anything!
Each week we strive to be a place of grace, love, generosity, and of compassion.
When you think of us here in Croatia, think of these stories – and pray...pray for them, pray for their families, and pray that we will continue to be a place that doesn't just receive donations and make them available to the public at very low prices. While that IS meeting a huge need around us, and something we're very happy about providing, we also want to make sure we're being intentional about moving from just being behind the counter to putting ourselves out there.
I know for me this is quite daunting on days where my Croatian fells a bit “less than”. But when I do that, when I move from behind the counter, I get to know the stories behind the transactions, the stories behind the donations, the stories behind the purchases, and really begin to see people, and a relationship can begin.