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  • Gabriella van Rij

It Started Off As a Terrible Day...

Let me set the scene for this true and epic experience: Covid-19 has happened to all of us worldwide. While it is different for everyone, we are all affected, and there is no escaping.

I decided that taking root and having a place where I can work and have a sanctuary at the same time is what I needed after the initial lockdown period.

The process seemed simple at first glance: call the movers in LA that took care of my storage and find movers to move the contents of the storage unit from the West Coast to the Midwest. After several written quotes, with most in the same price range, I chose the person who seemed the friendliest and who guaranteed a binding contract, meaning that they cannot change and add value on top of the agreed-upon price.

From the moment I signed the contract and paid the deposit, I had an inkling that something was wrong. I could no longer reach the agent. All my communications were forwarded to a new guy, “John.” At this point in the saga, I was still pretty optimistic.

The moving company I hired sent only one person (the driver) to the LA storage facility, knowing full well that it was 2,000 cubic feet and impossible to move with one man. The LA storage management told me they helped the driver get three men off the street to assist him. As you can imagine, now we were truly worried.

All the dates that I was given kept being postponed, till suddenly I got a phone call from another company saying that I had to pay $2,000 more. I argued a bit about binding contracts and held firm. They hung up, and I did not hear from anyone again for a few days.

The night before the truck arrived, I received a text that I only saw the next morning that said, “Pay in cash only.” Well, as you can imagine, trying to find that amount of money in cash on a Sunday morning is nearly impossible.

Here comes the Kindness—a friend of my manager, Bobbie, lends her the cash! Phew, just in time! One street below ours, we see a huge 18-wheeler drive up. We go down and talk to the driver who refuses to deliver it to the house’s front door with an excuse that he cannot back up to our street, just in case the grass of neighboring houses get damaged.

The first thing I wonder is, where are the three additional movers I paid for? How is he, alone, going to get 2,000 cubic feet of belongings into the house and all the furniture assembled and in the right places by himself? It seems impossible to me. Bobbie argues with him for about 30 minutes. After losing her cool, Bobbie takes off for work, telling me she has no idea how I should proceed.

I tell Alex, the driver, that I cannot give an amount like that in cash without a receipt—that nobody would do that. But he is unwilling to give me his last name for the receipt. Basically, we have a 3-hour stand-off regarding the receipt! (I should mention here that he is Russian and I gather this based off his accent and because he peppers his argument with “Americans are stupid,” as well as proclaiming that his last name is “Putin.”)

Out of frustration, I shed a few angry tears and take a big gulp of air. I have utterly lost my cool toward this driver. It all seems truly out of a bad novel.

But here comes the magic that you only think exists in movies. Out of nowhere, neighbors gathered around, coming to my aid. The men and women around me have transformed, in my eyes, into superheroes with capes on, to the rescue! I cannot do anything, so they gently take over…

They find strong young guys who can also bring a pickup truck, and before I realize what is happening, all these friendly strangers have become my knights in shining armor—all of them. They did what I have been campaigning for all along—to “take action when you see the need.” Wow! Kindness with a capital K in action.

This community came together to help while the driver just threw out his cargo and left without me signing off on anything!

However—no matter the chaos, no matter the scam that the driver and his company were holding over my head, no matter that in the heat of it we argued for three hours about a receipt—all I remember of that day is the beautiful camaraderie of new friends, of a community that I had previously only wished I could live in.

Kind, gentle, doers. Everyone partook. Even those who could not carry anything. One person, Bonnie, ordered pizza for everyone. Mary organized all the young lads. Chuck got his buddies together in the neighborhood with their trucks. Keith, Bill, Mike, Jim and another man (I forgot his name) all helped. And the women were near the garage while the trucks went up and down for a new load. Two friends of mine, Colleen and Diane, came to also lend a hand with a smile on their faces.

Later, when I told my daughter that out of an awful situation, something so beautiful had happened, she said, “How does it feel to get Kindness right back at you?”

I muttered between a huge gulp of breath, “Wonderful.”

When I get this house in order, I will do a big cookout for the neighborhood that—and here I will use a favorite saying of mine—helped a stranger go from a negative space into a positive place, and they WERE the difference!

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