by Sue Phelan
Danville, California, USA
In 1975, when I was 20 years old, my father and I had moved from Washington State to California. We settled in Alameda, and rented an apartment together.
The San Francisco Bay Area was a like an entirely different planet. I was so excited to be here, and the whole thing was just one big adventure. I didn’t know anyone except my dad and a handful of his relatives that I didn’t know very well.
My big adventure came to an abrupt halt one day three months after we arrived. I was out one day from early morning until early evening. When I arrived back home, there was a “For Rent” sign in the window, the apartment was empty, and the locks had been changed. My father was gone. Everything I owned was out on the front lawn and strangers were picking through my things like an unattended garage sale. My bedroom furniture and clothing were all over the lawn.
I had no job, very little money, and no place to live. My father had always been a very difficult, harsh man to deal with but this was the worst thing he had ever done. This was the very lowest point in my life. My faith in human kindness was destroyed and I swore that I would never trust anyone again.
In desperation, I called my father’s nephew, my cousin Rick, who lived nearby. He and his stepfather drove over immediately with a truck and hauled away my belongings. The next day I rented an apartment that was in the worst part of town and tiny, but at least I had a roof over my head!
Unfortunately, aside from bedroom furniture and some clothes, I had nothing. Rick immediately planned a housewarming party and started inviting his friends. I’d been to housewarming parties before, but I was unprepared for what happened next. Rick’s friends, total strangers to me, brought carloads of presents.
Everything was used and none of it was wrapped, but everything was beautiful! I was so overwhelmed by their generosity and kindness! They brought a dining room table and chairs, a television, pots, pan, dishes, bowls, a coffee maker, silverware, towels, sheets, bathroom items, and far too many things to mention here. They came with open hearts and open arms. I got as many hugs that night as I got presents. We told stories and laughed all night.
I had no idea how to pay them back. They told me to forget about them and simply pass the favor on to someone else. I never saw most of those people again but I’ve never forgotten them. I always look for opportunities to pass their kindness along to someone else in need. It may sound corny, but they gave me back my faith in human kindness that night, something you don’t usually get at a housewarming party!
Available in The Best of HeroicStories, Volume 2.