Oftentimes, it’s the little things. And, sometimes, it is just the matter of a truck.
Frequently, I receive phone calls from friends of Caroline Center who have furniture they are replacing and they ask me if there is a trainee or graduate who might be able to use what they don’t need anymore. The issue is never if we have a trainee or graduate who is in need; it is almost always a question of how we can get the items to her.
What I’m talking about played out a few weeks ago when a good friend and her family were in the process of emptying out their deceased mother’s home. They had a lot of good furniture. There were even people who could help move the pieces, wishing to honor the memory of their mother who had so lovingly furnished their childhood home.
All we needed was a truck.
Linda (not her real name), the recipient of the donation, graduated from Caroline Center five years ago and has been working since that time as a CNA/GNA in a long-term care facility in the city. Linda and her three children had recently moved into a three-bedroom rental, and she shared with me that the only furniture she had was a single bed that her young son was sleeping on.
To the rescue: Sr. Betty Koehn, SSND, who oversees trucks and such things at our sisters’ office and residence on N. Charles Street, was happy to help. She had a truck ready for us on Saturday morning. In short order, we had the truck loaded with several donated beds, a sofa, and other odds and ends, such as lamps and dishes. Then, we were off to Linda’s in the truck, which was closely followed by our two-car caravan.
When we arrived at Linda’s house, all of us were taken aback at just how little there was inside. Although Linda and her family had been living in their house for a full month – even though Linda has had a steady full-time professional position as a CNA/GNA for five years – there was, quite literally, only a single bed and two kitchen counter chairs in the entire house.
A thin bedspread on the floor of one of the bedrooms marked the place where Linda and her two daughters were sleeping. There was no TV, but Linda assured me that was okay because she and her children were able to watch movies together on her phone at night. There were no lamps, but the only tiny complaint came from Linda’s daughter who said it was hard for her to reach the pull chain on the overhead light.
Just goes to show that after you pay your security deposit, your first month’s rent, the charges to turn the utilities on, put a little food on the table, and pay for renter’s insurance, if you’re lucky enough to be able to afford that, you can eat up an entire paycheck – even a professional healthcare worker’s paycheck – pretty quickly.
That Saturday, it only took a truck to begin to change Linda’s reality; but hers was not the only reality that would be changed.
My friend’s family members who helped deliver the furniture – good people and long-time volunteers in the community who were certainly not new to grappling with and, in their own ways, helping to address issues of poverty, came away having experienced a new reality, too. After seeing how little there was in Linda’s home, our immediate reaction was to go back to my friend’s mother’s house, look again at what items remained, gather them up, and make a second trip to Linda’s.
We all had new energy for a task that had before been burdened with the sadness of a mother’s passing. The sense of loss that we felt at the ending of a loved one’s life was being healed by renewed purpose and meaning. Was this what Mother Caroline, our foundress, had meant when she said, “Now, take new courage and make it your own?” As we worked through the day sorting out my friend’s mother’s belongings, “Linda could use this” became our mantra. Throughout the afternoon and evening, the life-changing work at hand – made possible with just a truck – filled our conversations and occupied our thoughts and reflections.
At the end of the day, it would, once more, be just a truck that would change Linda’s reality yet another time.
After a long day of moving, when we returned the truck to Sr. Betty at the province and told her about our experience, Sr. Betty asked if we thought Linda could use an additional loveseat. We asked Linda, and she said “yes.” So, that week, we borrowed the truck again and made another visit to Linda’s house.
And, so it goes.
A popular automotive industry commercial touts the strength of its trucks in an ad campaign that claims, “Real people, not actors.” While we weren’t looking to replicate a “reality” TV show that weekend – there are certainly enough reality shows to go around – we will never again underestimate the power of a truck or of any small act of kindness to positively change the lives of all involved – both giver and receiver.
“Just a Truck” was written by our Executive Director Patricia McLaughlin, SSND.