Zak of All Trades: Picking plates: the piles we place ourselves in

This coming week, I'll be moving the rest of my things into my newly-renovated 1900-ish house and will officially become a resident of the fine community of DeLancey, better known to many as Adrian.

With the pending move, I started to get the itch for some new things last week. For example, I had a few plates and such, but I didn't have enough to host company if I had a housewarming party, so I decided to purchase a few new ones.

My idea of shopping for new things, though, is quite different than some folks' idea of doing so. For me, buying new means hoping they have some kind of special deal going at one of the dollar stores in town or at the Goodwill. For me, the only entertaining part about shopping is finding a bargain.

And last week, I struck it rich with a few deals.

As I said, I needed — or at least wanted — new plates and bowls, so I headed to the Dollar Tree, where everything really is a dollar, to see what they had in stock.

With all sorts of selections to choose from, my eyes were drawn by a few colorful options. The first thing, as a bachelor, that I had to check was on the underside of the plate. I flipped my two favorites over, and lo and behold, each was mircowave safe.

"Good," I thought, as I knew they'd be getting lots of mileage in the microwave.

Usually the next thing I'd check would be the price tag, but I already knew that at a dollar a pop, I was getting a good deal.

Finally, though, came the third step: the inspection.

So, I sat down right there in the aisle for all the world to gawk at and started sifting through the pile of plates about 30 high to find the best 8 in the particular swirled, multi-color pattern I'd selected.

The first was obviously not for me, as it had about a dozen scratches on it. So, it made its way to the newly formed discard pile.

The second was better, but still had a few scratches in the fine layer of paint on top: discard pile it is.

Needing only four plates out of this particular pile's color scheme, I started to get worried as I neared the bottom of the pile and the discard pile grew and grew.

One plate had made its way to the "keep" pile, but upon the light hitting it a different way, I found a flaw in it too. So, away she went.

Then, I started the process of the re-sift.

Starting with the last plate I'd just looked at, I went through looking for the least-flawed plates.

Now, don't get me wrong. None of these plates looked hideous or anything, and I knew that for the price I was still getting a great deal, but you don't find any of the gems if you don't look for them.

On the re-sift, we're forced to realize that none of the plates are perfect, but they all have good characteristics to go with their flaws. One plate had a small scratch on it, but the colorful paint just made it pop a bit more than the others.

Another plate had three scratches right beside each other, and for some reason, the pattern looked like a small tiger claw's scratch.

This plate had a tiger story to tell, so it went onto the "maybe" pile.

By the end of the second trip through these plates, I'd formed quite a large pile of maybes.

Now, my new problem was that I had to sift through the flawed maybes and decide which plates I wanted to claim as my own.

Now, didn't I just make a short story long, there?

The point is, we all have our flaws, don't we?

And if everyone we know is sifting through the pile we're in and looking for the perfect friend, the perfect mate, the perfect employee or the perfect whatever, we probably end up in the discard pile if they investigate us thoroughly enough — but we're not alone in the discard pile.

It's where everyone ends up if we're looked over well enough.
We do it with others around us too. Sometimes, it's the easiest way to deal with people — to look for their flaws.

I don't know if it's to make us feel better about ourselves or we're just programmed that way, or what.

Just like so many of us, the President of the United States filled out his NCAA bracket this year, and it will not be perfect. He makes mistakes.

Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring, and we've had nothing but snow since the first day of spring appeared on the calendar this week. He made a mistake.

It happens, and to think otherwise would be silly.

But it was also a very important week of remembrance for me. This week, I was able to remember three people who meant a lot to my childhood — three people who I knew had flaws in their lives but didn't live in the discard pile.

Monday was my Pap's birthday. We lost him to cancer a few years back, but his legacy to be yourself, help others and do what's right, no matter what stands in your way, lives on with us.

Tuesday, the world saw its first March 19 in a long time without the woman I always knew as Grammy Great.

But on that day, I was able to somberly embrace the love she always had for all of her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and so many more — an unconditional but firm love that said, "I love you as you are, but not enough to let you keep living that way."

And Wednesday, the world remembered a man who so many of us knew, not personally but through a television screen, on Mr. Rogers' birthday. Mr. Rogers taught so many of us as children lessons that we needed to learn and made them feel real through his mission and his life.

Now, when I think back on those three, I don't do a whole lot of inspecting or pile-making. It just doesn't happen.

They knew which pile they would have been in if they were inspected thoroughly, but they refused to stay in that pile. They knew they could make a difference by getting up, trying their best to live in a way that was beneficial and making the most of the opportunities they had to turn away from their flaws.

The shame of the flaw doesn't lie in its existence. We all have flaws. The shame comes when one allows his or herself to remain on the discard pile because of the flaws.

Maybe you're the plate with the paint pattern flaw and you look a bit different than the world says you should. That's OK, just keep getting up and doing what you do.

Maybe you're the plate who's been scratched by a tiger. That's OK. You survived. Now, go tell your story to teach and inspire others.

Whatever your flaw, there's none too great to overcome. It's just a matter of getting out of the discard stack and finding your perfect home.

Zak Lantz is the editor of The Spirit and can't pass up a good bargain when he sees it.