Brenda and I moved to Bella Vista during May of 2005. We had lived in Fort Smith and Texas before coming to Bella Vista. The St. Theordore’s Search Comittee had done a good job of telling us abouth the church, but we were discovering that living in Bella Vista was not like any other community we had called home. Therefore, one Sunday, I asked the St. Theordore congregation to tell us something they had experienced that they thought we needed to know. That ended up fostering a lot of helpful information including the observation of a longtime resident.
He said that an important thing to remember about Bella Vista is the “garage-sale phenomena” and the underlying emotional and spiritual consequences of those sales. We later had coffee and he explained his comment. He said after new residents have purchased a home and are in the planning stages of moving to Bella Vista, they probably had a garage sale. What was sold or given away had minimal emotional attachment. After they have moved into their new home, there were most likely unopened moving boxes in the garage. There were pathways in the house because it was filled with stuff.
That new reality creates a decision to buy a bigger house, rent a storage locker, or have a “post move-in garage sale.” Grief begins to seep in through the seams as they watch strangers take away their treasures. As the life cycle moves ever onward, there are more tears and downsizing on the horizon.
What prompted this remembrance was a picture and a post I received in November from The Rev. Pam Morgan, the rector of St. Thomas in Springdale. The picture was of the Bulgarian custom of people attaching an extra coat from their closets to a lamppost. The custom invites people that are lacking a warm coat to take one of the lamppost coats. No strings attached. Rev. Pam Morgan’s note that came with the photograph read, “Ken, what do you think?” I replied, “Let’s do it.” (Background: we serve over 100 meals to those in need every Tuesday.)
We talked with staff and other leaders of the church and the consensus was to try it. Before I made the announcement to the congregation, I went to our coat closet and found my “forgotten” coat. The many times that I have read and preached on John’s words in Luke’s Gospel, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none.” I had not dug down deep enough to appreciate the depth of John’s words. I had participated in other coat drives and I usually bought, as sometimes directed, new coats or gave those that we had outgrown. But the coat in my hands fit and had traveled with me for many years. I was wearing it during family pictures and during times of great joy and tragedy. It was my beloved coat! I had not worn it in several years because I had another that was also loved and a part of family events.
The congregation liked the idea and went to their closets and donated coats. On Dec. 16, 2018, we put 60 coats outdoors on lampposts and on the shrubbery and we left for our homes. I returned later that night and collected the 12 coats left unclaimed and gave them to a local shelter as per our agreement. Our congregation is still unpacking our coat stories and sharing them with one another.
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