"[Jane Knuth's] stories of the people that visit the store are very inspiring and she uses these stories to teach us the Vincentian principles of divine providence, spirituality and seeing the face of Christ in the poor."
The stories are fascinating, the reflections probing.
--Review for Religious
"I love Jane Knuth’s books Thrift Store Saints and Thrift Store Graces."
--Ray Dupont, National Saint Vincent de Paul Stores Committee Chairperson
Inspiring true stories of a volunteer thrift-store worker’s soul-changing encounters with the poor
Three people are waiting on the sidewalk in the drizzle. I drive past them and around the end of the building. As I park my car next to the fresh graffiti, I chew on my lip and say to myself for the hundredth time, What are you doing here, Jane? You don’t know the first thing about helping poor people!
So begins Thrift Store Saints, a collection of true stories based on Jane Knuth’s experiences at a St. Vincent de Paul thrift store in the inner city of Kalamazoo, Michigan.
At the outset of the book, Knuth is a reluctant new volunteer at the store, sharing that her middle-class, suburban, church-going background has not prepared her well for this kind of work. By the end of the book, Knuth has undergone a transformation of sorts, and neither she nor we can ever view the poor in the same way again.
Knuth’s transformation is rooted in the prevailing message of Thrift Store Saints: When we serve the poor, they end up helping us as much as we help them. Throughout the book we are introduced to new “saints,” as Knuth thoughtfully, at times humorously, describes how her encounters with the poorest people led her to the greatest riches of God’s grace.
Thrift Store Saints makes clear that it doesn’t require heroic Mother Teresa-types to make a difference with the poor, and it even more powerfully shows us that working with them is not gloomy, depressing work. Knuth’s moving stories demonstrate the profound joy any of us can experience when we see helping the poor not as social work, but as a spiritual path that leads us to the heart of Jesus.