A current trend employed by many auction companies today, in an effort to reach new buyers, is that auctions are ‘green’, and are an effective way of recycling furniture, appliances, antiques, collectibles, etc., while keeping the proceeds of such sales directly in the control of United States citizens who will reinsert those proceeds into the economy. I firmly believe that is all true, and do encourage auctions as alternatives to retail shopping.

But the point of this letter is to say that I am often surprised at how the prospect of buying and selling items at auction is such a foreign concept to so many of my peers. Having grown up in rural, southern Indiana, and having a father who went to auction school before I was born, I am in a unique position to have been exposed to auctions my entire life. However, auctions were not at all foreign to those who lived in our small community, whether your Dad was an auctioneer or not.

For example, at an estate sale, friends and neighbors would travel for miles to attend the auction of items which had belonged to a friend or relative who passed away. Some would bring pies or other home-baked goodies for the Sunday school group to sell to raise money to give to mission, others would come with the intention of ‘helping’ someone else pay a fair price for the more significantly-valued items, some would come intending to buy items to use in their own homes, garages or farms, and yet others would come because it was the right thing to do. It’s viewed as a way to show respect, or bring comfort, to a surviving widow or children of a lost companion by reminiscing about good times past, and showing the family members that the dead live on through their impact on others’ lives in ways that are oft overlooked. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen heirs of an estate weep openly and joyfully because the children of an old family friend was the winning bidder for the farmhouse, planning on restoring it and moving in, and the family had no idea of their intentions until the hammer fell.

Perhaps that sense of community has been lost on my generation, endearing those past relationships to history. Or, perhaps, a reawakening of that sense of community is the actual ‘change’ that many in our culture are depending on Washington to provide. I urge you to seek elsewhere, and change the lives of those with whom you live and work by buying the family farmhouse, or at least by bringing a pie.