Sometimes the most simple and repetitive moments can lead to something extraordinary. I had volunteered at the St. John of the Cross garage sale for many years, and had never thought about the impact that my volunteering might be having on others. A sunny Saturday in 2004 was when I met Lynda, a woman who would become like a grandmother to me.
The St. John of the Cross School transforms one person’s unwanted item into another’s treasures. A math classroom becomes a jewelry store. A history classroom becomes an art gallery, and so on. About 200 volunteers work hard for a whole week before the garage sale even begins, making the necessary preparations. People drop off their unwanted items at the door, and volunteers transport the items to their proper “stores,” to be prepared to be sold. On the day of the sale, 1,000 people will be browsing through the halls.
That Saturday, I was stationed at one of the bag checks, a place where people could drop off purchases while they shopped for more. I was working with two other volunteers when a lady came up to us, asking for help. She used an oxygen tank and was having trouble walking around. She asked us if we could help carry her bags and retrieve a painting for her. Something told me to help this lady, and so I did. Running back and forth between Lynda and the art room, we got the painting, and I helped her take it to her car. I safely stowed it in the trunk, and she tried to offer me a tip for my work. I turned it down and thanked her, planning to return to my post at the bag check.
Lynda asked if I’d be willing to help her move into her new apartment. initially, I was a bit confused and unsure about the request. I told her that I needed my parents, fellow volunteers at the sale, to approve. They met Lynda and, after a few weeks, agreed to let me help her move.
I learned that Lynda was a talented artist, and we got to know more about each other as time went on. As I spent hours helping Lynda sort and pack, she quickly became part of the family. I also met many of Lynda’s family members and friends. She even attended my confirmation party. Over the next few summers I continued to help her with basic household tasks, such as laundry, and simply visited.
Lynda became a strong influence in my life. We would talk for hours about life, love, friendships, challenges and much more. Sometimes we would walk around a grocery store, and she would explain what fruit was ripe, or we would meet up with a friend of hers. She always tried to look for the best in everyone. She was never judgmental, but instead shared her wisdom and love for life.
Sadly, Lynda’s health declined over the years and, eventually, I had to say goodbye to her. She would always joke: “You and your family are angels. One day I’m going to stop by your house to find out that you never lived there — that you went back to heaven.”
I actually think she was the angel who walked into my life. Her advice, as well as our serious life discussions, stay with me to this day. Quite often I find myself thinking back to the day we met, especially when I volunteer for the sale. It was a simple gesture that led to an extraordinary friendship.