Friday, May 27, 2011

A Well Dressed Angel

A Well Dressed Angel

It was yard sale day at the Johnson home. The Johnson’s had a daughter, Susan, upon whom misfortune had fallen in the double barreled whammy of a greatly unexpected unwed pregnancy and a more predictable stubborn will. Unwilling to listen to the wisdom of her mom & dad, she married the father of the child, Johnny, even though she was barely eighteen and he was only sixteen and they both glared at life through the lens of immaturity.
A look back through the prism of time reveals that no one person was one hundred per cent right in the processing of these unfortunate events but at the Johnson’s, some things were processed better than others. The yard sale was one of the high points.

The young couple was financially challenged as anyone might expect, having a new baby and living with the husband’s parents, jobless and destitute of all personal wealth except the occasional gift from relatives.

The relationships were strained at best between the two parental families because Susan’s parents did not favor the marriage while the Johnny’s parents acted like it was the greatest idea since sliced bread. There were two completely different sets of values in play, with serious conflict created by such wide differences in the expectations for their children. So on the yard sale day phase of the process, there was little or no interaction between these parental families. The Johnson’s however wanted to help their daughter someway, thus came the idea of a yard sale.

There was plenty of older but yet good quality items to sell and the idea of raising $400, a reasonably high sum in the early nineties to give to Susan to help with the expense of motherhood. The Johnson’s older daughter, Chelsea was home from college for the weekend, and her boyfriend Charles who lived nearby came over and helped to display a myriad of items from the basement in the driveway and the garage. Mr. Johnson contributed some of his older sporting goods but didn’t have many old clothes to sell because he wore the one’s he had till they were pretty much worn out.

Mrs. Johnson treasured her children’s, two daughters and a son, leftovers but for this purpose she was willing to sell some of them and it was back to school time so there would be a lot of interest in the clothes her children had outgrown. It was painful to sell the items but for such a noble purpose her reluctance was overcome and the anticipated joy and helping Susan prevailed.

The sun broke the eastern sky in a special way that day as the Johnson’s overloaded the driveway and the garage with the stuff for sale. There three other yard sales going on in close vicinity of their suburban Atlanta address so the crowds promised to be big that day, and the buyers came early and kept coming till about dark.

The yard sale went about as expected till mid afternoon when a little boy was spied by Charles eyeing some fishing poles in the back corner of the garage. When asked by Charles about his interest, the boy replied, “I would like one of them but I don’t have any money, we are shopping for back to school clothes and Mama can’t afford much for them and nothing for a fishing pole.” Charles being in a charitable mood and not realizing these were Mr. Johnson’s personal use items, not for sale, told the boy, “Take one, and it will be free.” Mr. Johnson, usually tighter than the bark on a tree, also moved by the charitable nature of the event, observed this activity and simply nodded his approval and Charles helped the boy pick his fishing pole.

It seems that this act of charity by Charles and Mr. Johnson got the ball rolling even though this whole affair was for a charitable purpose, selling unwanted items for as much as you get for them was not really being charitable towards the needy buyers even though the sales proceeds were for a noble purpose. When I say “got the ball rolling”, the sales proceeds at this point were not even halfway to the $400 goal, and suddenly the proceeds began to take off.

About that time Charles & Chelsea related to Mr. Johnson that the little boy’s sister had stayed in the car while her mother shopped for back to school clothes in the driveway. Because the little girl seemed to be pouting, Chelsea asked her what was going on. The little girl related that they were back to school shopping at yard sales and she wanted to go to the mall but her Mama only had a little money to spend and that the one or two things she had picked out so far were even too expensive at the yard sales for her to buy. Choking back tears the little girl began to sob quietly saying, “I want to go to the mall.” When Mr. Johnson heard this, he recalled years gone by as a needy child in a single parent home he had frequently longed for something better.

“Where is that family now?” Mr. Johnson asked. Charles said they went to the next sale around in the cul-de-sac. Mr. Johnson jumped in his truck and rode around till he spotted the little boy with the fishing pole which was the only way he had to recognize them, and from that, he found the boy’s mother and sister. Mr. Johnson explained to the mom that if they would come back to his house, they could pick whatever they wanted from the displayed items and there would be no charge for anything, the items would be gifts from his family to them. The lady was overwhelmed when she realized that someone was going to take the pressure off her and some real charity would be offered. She had prayed for help as the day went on and it became obvious than even by shopping yard sales she would not be able to meet her children’s needs.

A few minutes passed and the family returned; a mother, her son and daughter got out of the car smiling and all the Johnson family and Charles made them feel more welcome than before. Chelsea helped the little girl to pick out the best, most stylish and desirable clothes from what was on display. If the family expressed a wish for something that was not on display then the Johnson’s looked back through the basement and even got an item or two out a the current use things in their closets. Soon the single parent family left with their car loaded with stuff and two happy children well equipped for back to school. Mrs. Johnson wiped a tear away when she heard the little girl excitedly tell her brother that she had gotten the very coat she had wanted to have for when cold weather came along.

The yard sale continued at a brisk pace and the Johnson family along with Charles were not worried about making the $400 goal because the joy they shared with the family they had helped to bless was enough for them to know that they had had a blessed day no matter how the proceeds turned out.

They had put the remaining items from the yard sale back in the basement as darkness fell on their street and all were in the Johnson home preparing a fine meal to end what to them would be an unforgettable day. Charles and Chelsea were sitting at the kitchen table counting the money and had just pronounced the total to be an even $300 when the door bell rang. Mr. Johnson went to the door because the rest all wanted some privacy and some food at the moment. He was cautioned by the others to say the yard sale was over and they were not digging out anything else.

He was greeted at the door by a well dressed man who had a fine automobile parked at the curb. He was asking the location of the yard sale he had heard reference to from someone up the street. Mr. Johnson said simply, the yard sale is over; we are getting our meal together. The gentleman said well I was just looking for musical instruments; did you have any for sale? Mr. Johnson quickly said no, then suddenly he remembered a blue velvet lined music case in the basement that held a flute he had bought used for fifty dollars years ago in another city when one of the children had expressed an interest of studying band in school. Reluctant at first to get involved he told the man about the flute. Quickly the man said, exactly what I had in mind. Mr Johnson asked him to wait while he retrieved the flute thinking, “maybe $25 more towards the goal.” Inside he told the others about potentially more money as he brought the flute up from the basement. Don’t give it away they cautioned him, they had decided to make up the difference between the $300 they had and the $400 they wanted to give to Susan, and every other little bit would help they said.

At the front door once again, Mr. Johnson showed the gentleman the flute, and the man took it out and looked it over carefully then he began to play it. Beautiful music came from the $50 used flute which had so long languished in a storage box through four or five relocations of the Johnson household. “How much do you want for it?” was the question asked. Mr. Johnson replied,”Obviously you know more about musical instruments than I do what would you offer?” “$100 at least,” said the stranger at the door as he tendered a single bill bearing the picture of Benjamin Franklin. “Sold”, said Mr. Johnson. The gentle man left satisfied and the Johnson family, and Charles, prayed and thanked God, thinking maybe, just maybe, they had just been visited by a well dressed angel in a fine automobile. The $400 goal was met.

Bill Prince ©May 1, 2011, All Rights Reserved

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