Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Why I Sell on eBay--Of Haunting Green Eyes and a Young Man Down Under

 Afghan Girl with the Haunted--and Haunting--Green Eyes
June, 1985 National Geographic
(Hawaiian Odysseus Photo of Cover)


I'm one for seeing the glass half full. 

So while a good deal of the world may be focused on the Mayan calendar ending in December of this year, it's life as usual for me.

Add to that the fact that I'm looking at 60 imaginary candles on the invisible cake this July, well...let's just say that I am a full-fledged member of a universal club that is very appreciative of the life God's given them.

In 2000, I formally opened up a part-time business selling fishing flies I'd tied as well as fly tying materials on eBay.

In the latter part of last year, bone-weary from a bagel baking job in Redmond, Washington, and simply exasperated with the schizophrenic economy, I made the significant decision to abort the rat race I was quickly losing. 

Returning home to Walla Walla County, 250 miles southeast of my sojourn in the Emerald City of Seattle, I kicked my online business into full gear. 

Admittedly, it was a scary decision, but after much soul-searching, hours of heart-wrenching discussions with my wife, and a total overhaul of my theretofore makeshift business plan, I took the plunge.

And God's favor has incessantly rained upon me ever since.

Not that I'm rolling in the dough, mind  you, because I'm not...not yet, anyway. 

My blessings have come by way of the people I've encountered in my global entrepreneurship.

And in the end, the golden contact we make with our fellow men is more important than any earthly treasure.

That said, I've been struggling in the last couple of months, desperately trying to understand this minority segment on eBay that purchases items knowing full well that they are not going to pay for them.

When I ask eBay for help, I am told that the global venue is a buyer's market and that sellers are expected to uphold the highest standards of professional conduct regardless of how some buyers abuse the process.

The eBay reps continue: "You know, sir, this is a reflection of our economy."

What? That people can get away with doing wrong to other people?

What? Aren't sellers part of that economy, too? Don't we lose big time when you reinforce the bad behavior of non-paying buyers by lacking consequences with bite?

In short, I come away from those phone calls with eBay customer support feeling, well, entrepreneurially impotent. 


So then there's the subsequent fallout. I start feeling angry...I have to stuff that anger...with no adequate venting, I get to a point where I'm feeling sorry for myself.

And that's not a good place for anyone, let alone a businessman, to be.


God is like this wonderful and timely GPS. When He sees us going down a wrong path, He doesn't treat us as mere marionettes and--with ethereal puppeteer strings--control our movements or force our decisions or rob us of our freedom of choice.

He simply provides more opportunities.

In the early part of April, 2012 (exactly 16 days prior to this writing), I discovered in my eBay inbox that I'd just made a sale of the magazine below to a woman in Australia.

Afghan Girl, Found, 17 Years Later
April, 2002 National Geographic
(Hawaiian Odysseus Photo of  Cover)

I was elated! Promptly, I processed, packaged, and mailed the item off to the buyer. 

Less than two weeks later, I received the following positive feedback--

thanks arrived today my son has included her in many art essays for school

Now, I'd known briefly about the 1985 Afghan Girl cover story (see top photo) while researching for my description of the 2002 National Geographic issue, but as events would have it, I actually obtained the latter issue first. I don't remember where...could have been at an estate sale, church bazaar, or thrift store.

So that's why I made the sale of the 2002 issue first. 

Soon after, however, I got my hands on not just one, but two of the 1985 issues. My interest, like a single lit match in a dry forest, burned brightly and ran rampantly with new possibilities.

I remember gazing obsessively--as have millions of people all over the world--at the image of the Afghan girl with haunted--and, yes, haunting!--green eyes.

On impulse rather than analytical forethought, not worrying in the least about crossing unspoken professional marketing boundaries, I emailed the Australian woman a courtesy thank you for her nice feedback and then...yes, I dared it!...asked her if she could provide me with some background information about her feedback comment. I explained that I occasionally blogged about some of my eBay experiences.

When I awoke this morning to the light Walla Walla rain and checked my eBay status, I found an email from, I thought, the Australian customer. It was a well thought out response to my request. I was about to send an appreciative email when I noticed that there was a second message in my inbox.

Upon reading the second email, I learned that the response had actually been written by her son, a high school student.

Here is what the intelligent and eloquent young man wrote--

Afghan Girl Article

The following is in regards to your request to hearing about my, well, obsession is the best phrase. Firstly, I'd very much like to say thanks for my purchase. I received both issues & they're exactly what I wanted!

Now, you say you wish to hear a human interest story to put on your blog. Well, my obsession with the Afghan girl is nothing compared to her story, a single individual whose beautiful eyes captivated the hearts of everyone who saw them, eyes that reflected the plight of all refugees of war. That's remarkable, a true testament to the nature of humanity and the power of a well-told story, and an amazing piece of art, things of which I've always loved.

I don't quite remember the first time I saw the photograph by renowned photojournalist Steve McCurry, but since then I have been a passionate fan. He is now one of my photographic idols. What I remember, however, is being caught up in the beauty of the image like everybody else. I'd been taking photos for a while at this point, and when I saw this, I was blown away. Not only was the subject amazing, but I was swept away with the lighting, the composition, the focus, the simple beauty. I rushed off and read up on the story. Since then, it's been one of my favorite images.

I've since used it as an example in as many projects for school as I possibly could, from English (in a theme of journey and belonging) to Visual Arts. As recently as three weeks ago, I've used her story as an example in one of my first assessments for university (subject on the future of Afghan women). The Afghan girl isn't just simply an amazing piece of photojournalism and a beautiful photograph. It also captures the human spirit.

Today, I'm in possession of both issues of  National Geographic--the Afghan girl's complete story. I am in possession of not only collector's items, but a piece of history as well, and I thank you for that with all my heart.

This has been something I have desired for many years now, and I'm sure it will continue to inspire me.


Alexander Johnson


Just as I was moved by the awesome and memorable Afghan Girl cover, I was absolutely blown away by the thoughtful and equally inspirational response from the young Australian man.

Alexander, you're a credit to not just your parents, siblings, relatives, friends, and acquaintances. You're an embodiment of all that is hopeful and cause for thanksgiving in our world. May the good Lord bless your every endeavor--in your budding university life and in your future occupation, relationships, and global ambassadorship.

Thank you for blessing me with one more beautiful remembrance of why I do the work I do on eBay.

Aloha and mahalo,

Hawaiian Odysseus

Finding the Afghan Girl
National Geographic Video on YouTube

I also invite all who are interested to read a related post that can be found with the following link:


  1. Hello, this is Alexander.
    My mother emailed me the link, and I just wanted to say that I'm elated that I could not only help you, but also I've been included on your blog. I'm in print (well kind of), you've made my day, my week.
    Thank you again for allowing me to now be in possession of a piece of sought after history!

    Aloha :)

    1. You're most welcome, Alexander! And the best way you can thank me is to continue on the path you're already forging. As a proud and happy father of two adult sons and a daughter, all of whom are making a significant contribution on this big blue marble, my only advice to you, a young man who's making his mark, is to always honor your parents.

      My earnest prayer for you is that you someday get to meet the young Afghan woman--and/or Steve McCurry--in person. When you do, give them a great big hug and aloha from Hawaiian Odysseus! Cheers to you and your family!