Sam, a little boy in my class, lived in a challenging environment. Speaking with his mom made it seem that he lived a typical life, but as I listened, I sat on a ratty old mattress that served as the “sofa.” There was little other furniture visible from where I sat, and as I later considered my experience, I realized that this four-year-old lived in a home where the funds went to purchases other than those that would benefit a growing boy. It’s easy to judge in situations like this, much harder to keep a clear perspective. I was there for this little boy and that’s what I tried to keep in mind.
Fast forward a few months, after further collection of information. This family was about to go homeless due to the diversion of funds, and in fact it did happen shortly before Christmas. It broke my heart to see Sam initially relieved to live in stable housing with adequate food, then begin to sink as the effects of living in a shelter weighed on him. Mom and the four children lived in the shelter for four months, eventually saving enough money for a security deposit on a subsidized townhouse where they would live. Thinking I already knew the answer,  I asked mom what they needed. Her answer was “everything.”
So on a Saturday morning, Mom and a helper met us at the Furniture Warehouse with a rental truck. We filled this truck with furniture of her choosing for every room, and additionally, linens, cleaning supplies, and even a dining room hutch! The most remarkable part of this morning was that the warehouse was so well stocked, mom could actually choose a decorating style and select items that met that criteria. What a gift to have the freedom to choose! We were thrilled that she could have that experience.
Perhaps a month later, I went to visit at their new home and it looked well-loved. Places for everyone to sit – in chairs! – placemats on the table, dishes in the sink. Such a change from six months ago. It was rewarding to know that I had been part of this opportunity. Everyone seemed settled and content, and that is quite the thing to be able to provide.
Life is not perfect, and I later heard rumor – and it was only rumor – that mom had relapsed and they were not doing well. I don’t know if they lost their housing or not. But I now see Sam pretty frequently at school, and he is all smiles, always greeting me with his mischievous smile, and when I’m lucky, a hug. I wish I could save the world, or even set this little guy on a permanent path to life success, but that’s not what’s in my hands. But I do hope that that one Saturday morning while he and I sat in the truck eating donuts while his mom chose new furniture created a permanent sense of being unconditionally loved by someone in his life, someone who gave him and his family a chance. That it was me that made that happen makes no difference; I only wish that he remembers what hope feels like for the rest of his life. It all started with a generous selection of furniture at the Warehouse.
Submitted by Gwen Reilly