The Courtesy of Decency

Jennifer Fulwiler recently wrote an article for the National Catholic Register entitled, “Modesty Helps Women Be Friends.” I loved and agreed with the entire article. My favorite quote is this:

“Rather, it’s just a decision that women make, mostly in the back of their minds, not to make their bodies the center of everyone’s attention. It’s a small gesture, but the impact is striking. It brings an air of peace to a gathering of women that you just don’t have if a couple of gals have shown up in tiny tank tops and super-short shorts. It’s as if we simply say to one another, “I won’t show up in hotpants to your barbecue, you won’t wear a cleavage-bearing dress to my wine tasting, and we’ll all have a lovely time.”

(Check the entire article out here-

So simple, so obvious, but not to everyone! I have one more conscientious rule to add the Jennifer’s thought process. This weekend Doug was building a patio in our front yard, so I took the children for an early morning drive to get them out of the house while he worked. I saw a few garage sale signs and figured I would drive by to see what people had for sale. The first one I stopped at I saw a hammock. Oh how I love hammocks! I got out and asked the woman how much and found that it was too much for my little garage selling budget, so I did a quick scan of what else she had for sale and my eyes caught hold of something that infuriated me: a box of Playboy magazines. PORN, for sale at a neighborhood garage sale! I guess I assumed there was an unwritten, common sense rule that NOT selling pornography at a neighborhood garage sale would just be an obvious consideration.

What happened to people hiding their dirty little habits from others? Not that I am condoning the habit or hiding it, but it just goes to show what some people think about revealing that they are avid lookers and subscribers to these magazines. They find no shame and even more so they are willing to share it with their neighbors and in-turn scandalize those who would never expect to see it out in the open at a garage sale.

As soon as I saw the box, I said to the woman, “I will not buy anything here.” She did not realize my change in tone, so I asked her, “How can you have Playboys at a garage sale? What if the magazines scandalize a small child walking by with their parents?” She said, “Oh, I hadn’t thought of that. This is my guy friend’s garage sale, but I tried to put the ones that were most clothed towards the top.” Clearly since she admitted this to me there had to be something in her mind telling her this just isn’t right to do. The simple fact she placed certain ones on top means she had some sort of internal struggle with it.

I said, “Why don’t you just throw them away.” She said, “They are my friend’s, and he’s selling them because they are old,” suggesting they had some sort of worth or they were old collector’s items. I said, “Listen, you think these have worth because they are old, but they have no worth since they were trash to begin with.” Trying to hold back my fury, I said, “What if some woman’s husband comes to your garage sale and gets tempted by these images.” The discomfort set in for the woman and she went to the box and tried to reorganize. I’m not sure it she got rid of them or attempted to conceal them better, but I didn’t stick around to find out. My final words to her were, “I hope you do the right thing and throw them away.”

As I drove away, I wondered what more I could do. Should I go back and buy them all just to throw them away so no one else sees them or should I turn all her garage sale signs in different directions so no one finds it? Well, I ended up doing the most powerful thing I could do—pray. I prayed that the Lord would put it on her heart to get rid of them.

Pope John Paul II said many brilliant things, and one of them was this: “Pornography is not wrong because it shows too much. It’s wrong because it shows too little. It shows a body without a soul and that is counterfeit.”

What infuriated me most is that there was a video game chair sitting right next to the box of Playboy magazines. I envisioned a junior high boy going to the garage sale with his mom, and rushing to see how much the chair costs all the while catching an image of a naked woman and going from innocence to experience in a place he and his mother thought was safe to be at together. It will be an image he will not forget, an image that may lead to a curiosity of more images that would slowly corrode his mind and heart into thinking and looking at women as objects instead of an unrepeatable souls. This could be followed by years of struggling with the fake counterfeit instead of fighting for the dignity of the women in his life.

Why would this kind of image pop into my mind? It comes to mind because it is the story I have heard from many young boys who have come to tell me their struggle and addiction with pornography. And, when I ask how it all started, they speak of very similar stories of being exposed to it in the most unlikely places: the gas-station, grandpa’s shed, the alley, a friend’s house, searching for something else on the internet and an image popping up—and now—a neighborhood garage sale.

After I ended my prayer, I was reminded of Jennifer’s article on what we should be able to expect as the simplest courtesies from friends and neighbors: the courtesy of decency. So I must add to her words: “It’s as if we simply say to one another, “I won’t show up in hotpants to your barbecue, you won’t wear a cleavage-bearing dress to my wine tasting,” and no one will put out porn at the neighborhood garage sale, “and we’ll all have a lovely time.”



  1. OH I am so glad that you said something to her, especially the way that you did. My eyes popped out just reading about it…unbelievable and so sad. The last few lines gave me a giggle – we need bumper stickers 🙂

  2. Isis Alvarado · · Reply

    Kudos for you! I imagine I would have reacted the same way you did. Playboy magazines at a garage sale!!. Decency and morals are somewhat disappearing slowly from our society. We have to stand for what we believe and pray. Pray for Mary our Mother to interceed for our country, our families, to protect our children and grand-children.

    God bless you,
    Keep up what you are doing.

  3. Colleen Marquez · · Reply


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