by Sheila Burke
Did you ever have one of those moments when you find an answer in just the right moment in time? That happened to me today. Last month, my husband and I opened a thrift/antique store. It's a side business in a small building we have been unable to sell in the down economy. The building has been and is currently inhabited by the previous owner's spirit. His name was Mike. Chairs move, footsteps are heard, swings swing all by themselves at a steady pace for almost an hour, and the little boy that lived upstairs had an invisible older playmate that occupied much of his time. Mike used to run a music studio and give lessons. In fact, while renovating, an old guitar fell from the drop ceiling right smack onto my head!
Business was slow when we first opened the thrift store, and once we said,
Hey Mike, can you drive some customers in here so we can keep the lights on? Within 30 seconds, a steady stream of people came in making purchases. Since we've opened, we've had a little sign taped to the cash register that says,
Ask Mike to send customers and thank him. We also talk to him every day we are there. We say,
Good Morning, Mike,
How ya doin’, Mike, things like that.
Anyhow, I am generally the one who works the store four days a week. This is in addition to running our mainstay business (a window cleaning company), working on my zen Facebook page, blogging and most importantly – taking care of my family and house. It's quite exhausting sometimes, but bringing in a little extra income is a must these days.
I came home yesterday afternoon thinking,
Do I really want to do this anymore? I even told a friend just this morning that I feel like I've got my hands in too many things, and I'm unable to give my full attention to any of them. So I dragged myself down to the store this morning and pulled up the window blinds for my five-hour stint. I took a book off the bookshelf of dollar books and plopped down in my chair. I still contemplated in the back of my mind if I wanted to continue this venture or not.
People trickled in and out and I made two small sales, not enough to pay for the electricity for the day. A nice lady came in wanting to purchase a bunch of old 78s for a Victrola, but she didn't have enough cash, so I went against my own policy and accepted a check. An older man popped his head in the door and asked if we buy things. I told him not generally (you should see what people want to sell you sometimes), but I'd take a look, all the while thinking that all I had was $20 in the register and a check that I wasn't even sure was good!
Well, I ended up buying an old camera and three old railroad lanterns from him for the $20. Two of the lanterns were a hot rusty mess, but one was in okay shape. Now, I can strike up a conversation anywhere, and this guy was looking for someone to unload his life story on, so we began an hour-long conversation. We laughed about life, we talked politics and religion, and he told me stories of his days as a Navy Seal in Vietnam. He slowly pulled down his sock and showed me a badly healed wound in his ankle while his face puffed up and his eyes began to tear as he recounted how poorly he was treated upon his return home.
I also discovered that he's been writing books, but has never talked to a publisher. I told him I self publish, and how it's the way to go now, and gave him the information that got me to where I am now in my writing. I felt like he was an old friend by the time he left. I began to think about how much I like it when people like this come in. To hear their stories, and in many cases to feel them. The laughter, the tears.
I was just about to close up when another lady came in. She bought some old window shutters last week and was picking them up. She arrived five minutes before closing. I felt a silent groan when she appeared, but welcomed her with a smile. She chatted for 25 minutes, well past closing. People walking by saw the door open and filed in. The shutter-lady smiled and whispered,
Sorry, it's my fault you are still here, but maybe one of these customers will be good for you! and she was on her way. No one bought anything, and as soon as they left, I hurried straight to the blinds and turned the Open sign around to Closed. I had one more blind to draw when I saw a van pull up. Ughhh, really? I peeked my head through the door, smiled, waved, and mouthed,
It's okay, come on in.
The couple said they were from out of town. They happened to be driving past and wanted to stop and see the building because the man's father had owned the building previously. I said,
Ahh! Mike! and then I looked at him, widening my eyes, and said,
You know...your dad is still here. I proceeded to explain all the little noises, bumps, chair pushing and happenings in the place over the years. I even showed them our
ask Mike sign by the cash register. They were quite fascinated, and I was really happy to have met them. I also explained how, when I brought the old guitar back (that had cracked me in the head) and hung it on the wall, the activity seemed to calm down a LOT.
While the couple looked around at all the renovations and recounted old times, we talked about all the spirit happenings some more, and I offered them the guitar. They thought it over, but then they decided that Mike would like it to remain there. The man purchased a few rock and roll music items, and they gave me their contact information for when either I was ready or they were ready to receive their dad's guitar back. Mike's son wished me all the best success, and said it was nice meeting me. Then before closing the door, he smiled a wistful smile, looked around, and said,
So my Aha! moment, as dear Oprah would call it, was that I've opened this store for a purpose of earning a little extra cash and helping to upkeep this money pit of a building, and in doing so, I'm meeting new people, hearing wonderful tales, and enjoying old souls.
I think I'll stick with it for awhile and see what transpires. 🙂
Sheila Burke is a married mom of three beautiful and strong young adults. Always a dabbler in putting pen to paper, Burke finally started publishing her books in 2010 with the release of her first book, Zen-Sational Living. Although she freely admits to losing her Zen now and then, this inspirational author is pleased to share her life's journey with her readers, and has done so in the many titles she has released over the years, on her blog, and through social media. To explore her wonderful books, visit her author's page at Amazon. She can be contacted via her website, ZensationalLiving.com, or her popular Facebook page, BeZensational.