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Posts Tagged ‘migrants’

I love Melbourne. Perhaps it’s the writer in me, but I love its quirky, cosmopolitan, coffee culture. And the city itself always seems elegant and refined to me, with its wonderful old buildings and avant-garde shops. On a recent visit, I stayed close to the inner city – and it was there that I had my op shop experience.

You see, I have a sister who coordinates an emergency relief service in the Fitzroy area. Most weeks, on the two days it is open to the public, she and her wonderful team almost exclusively made up of volunteers look after somewhere around a hundred clients. Many are new to our country and need all sorts of help, but others have simply fallen on hard times or face other challenges that cause them to struggle to make ends meet. My sister and her workers can help with emergency food supplies, voucher assistance for some services and also in advocating with other agencies and government bodies on behalf of clients. All of this is carried out with great wisdom and compassion, whatever the clients’ backgrounds or difficulties. And alongside this, they also run a truly excellent op shop in adjoining premises.

One day I was let loose as an assistant there, sorting out bags of clothes donated by various churches and individuals and arranging these for display, as well as serving customers. And what an interesting assortment of people I met in the process! Migrants from various African nations and also from parts of Asia and the South Pacific; interestingly attired students from the nearby university, some of whom were freezing in the sudden cold snap so came seeking an extra jumper or coat; enterprising women with a keen eye for fabric they could recycle to create fashionable items for resale; and one or two down-at-heel, slightly inebriated gentlemen looking more for a listening ear than for any bargain. Word has got around across the social strata that this shop is worth visiting for a couple of reasons. Not only is it very well run, but most garments are sold for a mere one dollar or less!

So what did I glean from my ‘op shop day’? Firstly, I saw how well off our society is on the whole, in that we can dispense with so many clothes we own and still have more than enough. Admittedly, on the day I was there, we sorted through bags of children’s clothes which obviously were no longer needed, but for whatever reason, great adult clothes had also been discarded.

But secondly and much more importantly, I saw how each customer was treated with compassion and understanding. Prices were lowered further for some clients who could not afford even the dollar, while items were put aside for one or two known to my fellow-worker until such time when they would have the necessary funds. At the end of the day, I came away sensing strongly that God had been honoured in that place. Surely, as Jesus explained to his disciples on one occasion when asked about the end times, the King would say to these hard working volunteers in my sister’s organisation, as they sought to feed and clothe people:

I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. (Matt 25:40)

So did I meet the King that day in the op shop? Just maybe I did.

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