Several years ago when I was moving back to Florida, Mom drove up north in her minivan to help me pack and move. I brought with me only what would fit in my car (and it was packed FULL), and what we could fit in Mom’s van went with her only as far as their place in Tennessee so that I could pick those things up later.
When I got to Florida, I got a room at the Motel 6 for a few days because they allow pets and they’re dirt cheap. I found an apartment available at the same apartment complex I’d lived at before, and I was able to move in just a few days later. I had almost nothing, but it didn’t matter, because I was on my own, I had a great job lined up, and I was back in the South. Life was good.
The first morning I woke up in my new apartment, I went to morning Mass at Prince of Peace. Fr. Larkin was still there, and after Mass I waited in line to speak to him. I had planned on re-introducing myself to him and telling him my situation, saying, “Hi, Father, I’m Connie, and I was in your parish four years ago and on the stewardship committee.” I got as far as, “Hi…” before he said, “Connie!” and gave me a great big hug. That wonderful man has an equally wonderful memory.
I told him I was back in town, that I had an apartment down the road, and that I was starting my new job on Monday of the next week. It was probably a Thursday when we were having this conversation. I told him I needed furniture. He told me to leave my contact information with the parish office, and he’d see what he could do.
A few days later I got a call from him. A family in the parish was moving, and they weren’t able to take their furniture with them. He’d arranged for another parishioner with a truck and trailer to bring everything to me. When they arrived a few days later, they gave me a couch that seemed practically brand new, a coffee table, a recliner, a nightstand, and a dining room table with chairs.
I bought a mattress on Craigslist for $40 including delivery. I found box springs free on Craigslist if I could pick them up, and a local friend with a truck did that for me. That friend’s grandmother had recently died, and the family generously gave me her bed frame and some of her pots and pans. Another lady from church gave me more kitchen items. I bought a cheap set of dishes, and I found a tv stand that was still usable but a little scuffed up on the side of the road. I had given my tv to my brother years before, but he no longer needed it, so I picked that up the next time I went to my parents’. After a couple paychecks came in, I splurged and spent $40 on two end tables. And that was it. For $100 and with the generosity of a lot of people, I had a furnished apartment.
I’d already started my job when the church people brought the furniture to me. I went to Prince of Peace for a few weeks while I had a Monday to Friday schedule during training, but after that, I ended up having to switch to a different parish. I worked too late on Saturday and too early on Sunday to get to Prince of Peace, but I could make it to Assumption. Several months later, due to a schedule change or a holiday or something different in my schedule about which I can’t remember the details now, I was able to go to Mass at Prince of Peace. During that Mass I realized something that I hadn’t realized before: the fabric that was on my couch was the exact same fabric that was on the pews. I was dumbfounded.
I didn’t talk to Fr. Larkin about it. He’d told me the furniture was from a family in the parish, so I didn’t question him. I think what happened, though, is maybe all of that furniture except the couch was from a family, but the couch was something he gave me from the church’s bride’s room. It seems like something he would do: give something of the church’s to a parishioner who doesn’t have something.
This past March, I was back in Jacksonville for the Diocese of St. Augustine’s Eucharistic Congress. [Side note: that was incredible, and you should definitely go if you have the chance.] On Sunday morning before driving home to Charleston, I went to Mass at Prince of Peace. Fr. Larkin had been the pastor there for something like 30 years, but he’s retired now. Before Mass, I asked Eugene, who was at home back in South Carolina, to take a picture of our couch and send it to me. After Mass I was able to compare that to the pews, the priest’s chair, and even the prie-dieux.
Here’s our couch:
And here are some pictures from Prince of Peace in March 2015:
The furniture that’s in the bride’s room now:
And some bonus pictures of what I call Superman Jesus. This used to be the baptismal font, but apparently now it is not. I never quite understood the angle of the Jesus statue which is suspended from the ceiling.
When I moved south from Jacksonville, I donated the dining table and chairs, because they weren’t going to fit in the new apartment I got. When I left there in 2012, I donated a lot more. Friends told me to sell the furniture, because a lot of it was in great condition and could’ve brought in some money, but I couldn’t do it. I was given so much when I was in need, and I hoped I could bless somebody else in that same way.
As of this morning, the only furniture I still had that was from that time in Jacksonville was the couch, the coffee table, and the nightstand. Today, Eugene and I donated the couch to our local parish so they could use it in their new Family Life Center. Generous people from the parish who own a truck came over and helped us move that piece and several more pieces of furniture.
We’ll get some used-but-new-to-us furniture over the next few months. We’re planning to move temporarily into an apartment in December and stay there until the house we’re having built is ready some time next year. Oh, did I not blog about the fact that we’re moving? :-) Well, there’s the announcement then. We’re moving. Maybe I’ll write more about that later. For now, I wanted to take the opportunity to tell a story of people’s generosity toward me and say a public thank you to everybody who helped me along the way.