Sunday, March 31, 2013

Caution: That Road is Paved

Good Intentions Fiasco of 2002 (as mentioned here): Laid bare.
It goes like this: We were broke college students. (Not poor, but broke.) Three of us shared an apartment in a town called Independence. The 2-bedroom place was part of my salary as assistant manager of the complex. For most of the year, it was just us three: Cortney, Jenna & me (At one point, we adopted a Japanese foreign exchange student, but that is another story).
In the time before there was a beautiful Beaverton Baha'i Center, the community conducted several fundraisers to pay for the building. Jenna hailed from 'dems parts and often made the two hour trek north on the weekends to visit. A call had been made to donate items for a yard sale. Cortney had approximately $0.87 in her bank account. I was almost twice as wealthy with $1.42 (I had a better job, really). No coins were to be found in our apartment. On a broke Friday, just like any other, we made a plan to help out the Beaverton Baha'is because we're just good people (sarcasm meets forshadowing).
Renters often leave in a hurry. You'd be surprised. I always was anyway. The manager and I often stored abandoned goods in a storage room in the complex until we figured out what to do with all the junk.
It was a perfect storm: a call for stuff + broke college students + keys to a room full of abandoned stuff + a whole lotta good intentions + Jenna driving to fundraiser all the way from college town. We had four hours 'til go time.
A little more than a decade later, I still recall the excitement as we opened the door. Our eyes widened, "I can't believe someone would just leave all this stuff!" It wasn't even in boxes. Coats, cups, shoes, plates, papers, furniture, files, photographs, and frames had all just been tossed in the room haphazardly. I kept thinking a cat would slink out from an unknown corner or we'd happen upon a dead lizard, once beloved and now drying out under a pile of unpaid bills. We got to work on the treasure hunt of our semi-adult lives. And you wouldn't believe what we found.
As we sifted through and pulled aside lovely dishware and picture frames which would surely catch a good price, we found a wallet. A wallet! Who abandons their wallet? Seriously, people. We opened it and found two buckeroos. An instant doubling of our money. God is good. We ran back to our apartment, shoved that pair of dollars in an envelope and sent it straight to National (reference to the Baha'i Fund to which only Baha'is are able to give) since we hadn't been able to give in a while. Having dropped the envelope in the outgoing mailbox, we returned to the storage room with a pair of scissors.
"These people are so lucky," I said.
"Yeah," Cortney responded knowingly, "What if someone else had come across this stuff?"
"Seriously," we kept right on, "Who else finds someone else's credit cards and cuts them up?"
We're such good people. So responsible and caring and thoughtful. And humble too!
Know what else we found? A whole box of checks. You bet we cut those up into tiny pieces too. Because we're just so helpful and caring.
When we came across all the family photographs, we paused momentarily to respect the memories that would be lost to the children of that family. They would never know what their great-grandparents looked like, how terrible their haircut was in third grade, would never have the opportunity to share and compare their baby pictures with their own future children. A family's history, lost. We sighed deeply. Then we took the frames.
Just as Jenna was cutting us off, her car full of salvaged items otherwise headed to the dump, we found it. A large and heavy wooden box. We slowly lifted the lid to find, wrapped in velvet, a full 10-piece set of silver cutlery. You know the ones you see only at wedding showers when the grandmother gets help to lift it into the waiting brides' lap and says, "This has been in the family since the dawn of time." And then everyone cries. Yup. We found one of those and shoved that in Jenna's car too. Surely, the fundraiser would be a wonderful success!
Jenna drove away as Cortney and I fell to the floor (we didn't own a couch) with elation, knowing we'd done our good deed for the day.
The main culprits.
You may have already guessed what happened next. I was sitting in my office a few days later, putting rental agreements in order and in came a woman wearing a trench coat. I looked up smiling and asked how I could help her, but she was already red in the face and pointing her finger at me.
"You're Rebecca?!" she screamed, taking two steps forward.
"Yes," I smiled (I can muster false confidence in no time flat), "How can I help you?"
"Where's my stuff?" she threw her hands in the air, making her long coat flare out. It didn't look like she was carrying a gun so I opted to keep talking instead of running. Not to mention, she was standing in front of the only exit.
"Your stuff?" I almost exhaled knowing that I hadn't taken anyone's things and then...
"Yes, my stuff," she continued, though was only yelling now, "The manager was letting me store it until I could come and get it."
I can only imagine the look of horror on my face, hand cupping mouth.
"I'm so sorry," I said, "I donated it to a fundraiser. They're building a community center in Beaverton."
She lowered her head.
"I have no idea where it is now," I continued, desperate like her, "Can I pay you back somehow?"
And just as quickly as she'd come, she turned and left.
I never saw her again.

Ain't nothin' like a healthy dose of humility. And the good fortune to not have been shot.

"O SON OF BEING! Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning; for death, unheralded, shall come upon thee and thou shalt be called to give account for thy deeds." --Baha'u'llah

Will I be made to remember them all?


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