Where does one find an eclectic assortment of vintage dresses, classic comics, and incredible artwork (besides Antique Roadshow)? The community flea market at Arcadia University. A biannual event put on by the Community Service Office (see my last post for more info), it draws hundreds of people from the area to our campus for anything from couponed soap and shampoo to a chance to win a free makeover. Arcadia students came out in droves to take advantage of the absurd deals, but there was opportunity to do a lot more than spend money. My job in the Community Service Office (CSO) gave me the opportunity to—wait for it—work at the Flea Market. Crazy, right?
Sorry for the sarcasm. I’m a twenty-something in America. It’s what we do, right?
Silliness aside, I did get an amazing opportunity to do more than just work at the Flea Market. I was able to meet a side of our community that I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to otherwise. I found a cultural experience where many wouldn’t expect to find anything but others’ unwanted junk. My cultural immersion began at the enchanting hour of 6:30 a.m.
After awaking in a groggy haze, I made my way to the CSO to report for duty. After carrying clothes and food for our office table, I was assigned to collect money and tickets from the 100+ vendors. With a furrowed brow and a tinge of nerves, I approached my first vendor. Once I was directly in front of him—an older man in a red shirt and cap—his mouth broke into a big smile.
“Hello! You’re here for the money, right?”
I smiled and nodded as he handed me some cash, shook my hand, and went back to his table. With newfound confidence, I went back to work as well. And, it seemed that each vendor was friendlier than the last. The couponing couple with a son that goes to Arcadia. The sweet little lady who sells clothing from the 60s. The team of guys selling antique furniture. As I spoke to more and more people, I couldn’t help but adopt their infectious friendliness. I realized that among this community of people, the vast majority weren’t focused on profit; they just wanted to be there.
As the day swept by, I got the chance to talk to the vendors again, in order to get email addresses and feedback. In that short 45 minutes, I was able to make a lot of new friends. I spoke to a former high school teacher who dreamed of going to China. She saw my necklace, a jade monkey I bought in Shanghai on Preview, and said she immediately recognized it as the real deal. We talked about her life and mine, where I had traveled and planned to go after undergrad. She was genuinely interested in who I was. She told me, “Go where you can while you have the chance!”
I moved along to a young woman who sells Mary Kay and whose brother is an engineer. After asking how her day was going, she immediately said, “My day always goes well! How about yours?” After chatting for a while, she told me that this flea market is one of her favorite places to meet clients. She loved talking to college students and the community atmosphere that this event fostered.
I was even able to bring some cheer to vendors that didn’t reach their sales marks. Their eyes grew wide as I explained that projects like Alternative Spring Break and our annual MLK Day Community Collection would not be possible without the funds generated from the flea market. Subtle shrugs morphed into cheery smiles as these people learned their small contribution provided so many opportunities.
As the last vendors cleared out of Boyer parking lot, I was left to reflect on these sentiments. What we have on this campus—an atmosphere of positivity and acceptance—is a pretty amazing thing. Not only for us, but for our entire community. After truly meeting the flea market community for the first time, I saw that they are an incredibly welcoming group of people that just want to hang out on a nice day and share their collections with new people. I realized that I don’t have to look far to immerse myself in a new culture. And, I’m going to make it a personal mission to not only go out and seek new experiences, but to bring new experiences to Arcadia. Our university has so much to share, and I believe that we should share it more often.
So what was my fantastic find at the community flea market (besides this killer vintage trunk)? I guess it was the community itself.