I never moved as a kid. I never had to leave my house, lose my friends and start all over. I did as an adult. I moved from Chicago to Los Angeles and then again to Arizona, the latter being the most challenging experience of my lifetime. But here I am, arguably in the second half of my life, doing it again. As moving day approached, most days I functioned alright understanding the magnitude of this upcoming geographic shift. But that’s only because I was in complete denial. I hadn’t packed. I refused to say goodbye to anyone. I just went about my busy life as I always did and tried not to focus on the fact that my family was being uprooted.
My kids were excited for the most part, except when they weren’t. Like me, they toggled between hopeful enthusiasm and debilitating fear. On my good days, I thought about making friends, building a strong community and finding professional satisfaction. Other days I thought about ending up a puddle in the corner of a room, unable to pull myself together to even venture outside of our lovely, generic rental home that I won’t be able to customize and color as if it were my next great art project.
Each day I found myself facing some very concrete challenge that threatened the foundation upon which I was cautiously treading. One day, I waited for a charity to come pick up a load of furniture, which included an 8-foot granite mosaic dining room table I had built and a 700-bottle stainless steel wine refrigerator that required no less than six movers to haul into my home. Of course after eight hours of waiting they didn’t show up. When I tried to reschedule, they asked me to please move the items to the curb and assured me they would be in the neighborhood sometime the following Tuesday between the hours of 8 am and 4 pm. “Well,” I thought to myself, “That’s just not going to work.”
I spent a few hours completely panicked, knowing that the house needed to be cleared and in move-in condition for our new tenants by the weekend. Then I started snapping photos of everything in my house that was too big or too old or too fragile to move. I listed everything for free on craigslist. Literally within 30 seconds of posting the items, my phone started ringing and dinging off the hook. Hundreds of people wanted my items, and they were eager and aggressive.
The texts became increasingly frantic and dramatic. “My parent’s house burnt down.” “This is the most beautiful table I have ever seen.” “I’m a single mother and I cannot live without this love seat.” Each and every voicemail and text indicated that the interested party was en route to my house with a truck and a cadre of muscular movers. I was completely overwhelmed.
I texted my address to the first respondent, who arrived at my door within minutes. I admit I was surprised to see a petite woman, her 14-year-old daughter and an SUV parked at the curb. “Um… I don’t think you’re going to be able to take anything in that,” I said. She surveyed the house and politely asked if she could have everything. She promised to return within two hours with the manpower, equipment and space needed to gently remove all of my colossal items.
I was reluctant to promise the pieces to her. What if she didn’t come back? What if I lost all of the other leads because I trusted a stranger? It seemed like a bad bet to place. But she looked honest and sincere. So I agreed.
I ignored the bombardment of calls and texts that continued non-stop until her return at 8 pm. She and her peeps took everything gently and carefully and graciously thanked me for all of it.
Within 20 minutes my house was cleaned out and a stranger’s family had enough furniture to outfit their own empty abode. I felt good about it, like maybe I had contributed to someone else’s happiness.
A friend shook her head at me when I relayed the story to her. “You do know they’re just going to sell your stuff and make a whole lot of money don’t you?” By her tone I knew I was supposed to feel bad about that. But instead I was thrilled and felt proud of these strangers entrepreneurial assertiveness. “More power to them,” I insisted. “They saw an opportunity and acted on it. Forgive me, but isn’t that part of what built our country and made it great?”
She looked at me as if I had morphed into a female version of Donald Trump. Using the words “country” and any form of “make it great” in the same sentence these days is a risky enterprise. I actually felt embarrassed, like I had confessed to some kind of sick, sinful, capitalistic tendency.
But the truth is, I did admire the moxie of this young family. I appreciated their willingness to come over on a moment’s notice. I was grateful to have my moving load lightened exponentially.
People today worry so much about getting their due. There’s a pervasive belief in society that one person’s financial gain only comes at a deficit to someone else. I see it differently. I no longer needed some stuff. What I did need was someone to empty my house and haul away my belongings. The young family who came to my aid needed furniture or money to help them live better lives. If they keep and enjoy my stuff, that’s a “win-win.” If they sell it to someone else and make money, that creates an even longer chain of benefit, or a “win-win-win” situation. In my book, the more “wins” the better, for all of us.
Debra Rich Gettleman is a mother and blogger. For more of her work, visit unmotherlyinsights.com.