I had been putting it off for weeks. I didn’t want to go up the rickety ladder to clean out the attic. But, there was this nagging feeling to get it done. It has pull-down wooden stairs, and then I have to put a shorter ladder underneath it to climb them. One of the springs holding the whole thing has come loose on one side, and it feels wobbly as I go up every time. I always tighten the screws on each side to make myself feel better.
I always keep my fingers crossed that this won’t be when I have to cash in my life insurance policy. I have learned how to go up quickly if everything gives way. And then I will live there for the rest of time, surrounded by all the things that I should have gotten rid of long ago.
I always go up intending to throw things away, but then I come across my kryptonite. The photo albums that I forgot were there. Suddenly, four hours have gone by, and I have nothing to show for it except wondering where the time has gone. Not for just that day, but years that I will never see again. And my natural hair color. Gone. Just like that.
This time, I also was dealing with some items I had taken from my parents’ home when I cleaned it three years ago. I pushed aside my mom’s wedding dress that I couldn’t throw, but no one wanted and started making discard and keep piles.
I felt so sluggish as I attempted to do this. Not energetic at all about setting myself free of things that no longer were serving a purpose. That is how I usually feel when I do this. I donate to the Salvation Army next to new items, which has always motivated me to clean so that someone else can use them. But that mental trick wasn’t working either.
I quit wondering why I was feeling so lazy and decided to wait until the next day to get it finished. I forced myself up there again with my oldest daughter catching what I was tossing to her below. They say that what goes up must come down. That was not the case with the gigantic Christmas tree I forgot was in a bag.
I tried every angle to push that through the opening to no avail. I even placed both of my feet on it and shoved. I realized I was making sounds like you would hear if someone gave birth.
“Are you grabbing this?” I asked, finally getting it past the metal hinges on the stairs it had gotten caught on.
“Hey! Are you catching this?” I asked again, trying not to slide down with it.
She was too busy recording me. You just can’t get good help these days.
I kept going, and once the momentum built, I was not slowing down. As I handed her an item that sent a plume of dust all over her, I said,
“Do we still have your old guitar?”
“I don’t think so,” she said, coughing.
I turned and saw the black cloth zippered case and wasn’t sure. But, when I opened it, it was a perfectly brand new Fender electric guitar that was barely used.
This was from a time when she thought she wanted to learn and took brief lessons online with an instructor. After a while, she got bored with it. When I handed her this to take down, she said,
“I don’t know why I thought I wanted to do this.”
Usually, after determining what I would donate, I load everything in my car and drive to the thrift store to give it all away, but I had started so late on a Sunday that I decided to wait until the next day.
When I woke up the following morning, I heard very distinctly that I was to go to a particular location right by my house after an appointment that I had. I wasn’t sure why, but I never usually do.
I pulled around the back of the building and waited behind a car with a small trailer attached to it. A man came and went from the donation center, loading up shopping carts and taking them in.
Once the guy in front of me moved on, I pulled up and started taking things out of the back of my car. The worker pulled another cart and started helping me. When we got down to the last donation, I said,
“I have a strange question.”
This is the part where I always find myself in uncertain territory. Sometimes they take what you have, and other times you have to go elsewhere to get rid of things. During COVID, they took next to nothing for fear of spreading the disease.
“I have a brand new electric guitar to give away. But, I don’t know if you take those here.”
I handed it to him. I knew it was valued at $300, but that made no difference. I just wanted someone who needed it to have it.
Oddly, this very talkative man went mute. I couldn’t tell if he was struggling to tell me I had to go to a music store or list it for sale. He just stood there, staring at it. Because I have been turned away so many times and had to drag things back home, I said,
“I don’t even care if one of the intake workers takes this. I don’t want to have to deal with it.”
He just stared at it. And I kept trying to figure out why he had gone silent. He moved forward and put it back in my car.
Oh, great. He was too afraid to tell me I had to take it back.
Quietly, he said,
“I am in rehab. I am sixty days sober.”
“That’s good,” I said suddenly, unsure where we were going with this conversation.
Stammering, he said quietly,
“I really want that guitar.”
Now I was the one who had lost all of her words.
“Yes. I have been in rehab, and I am learning to play the guitar. I could really use that.”
It was one of those moments where you just know you have not been out of the divine timing of God one second. I might have missed him if I had cleaned the attic on Saturday and driven it over. Our paths were set to cross exactly then so God could show him that he was on the right road. I wasn’t lazy on Saturday! Or, at least, that’s what I decided.
“Where is your car? I can put it in there for you.”
I realized that he could get into trouble for this, so I tried to sneak it into his possession.
“I don’t have one. I lost all privileges. I get picked up by a bus at the end of my shift. Could I take your phone number and have my case manager call you?”
That sounded a little unsafe to me.
“What is your phone number?”
“I had that taken away too. I am still on probation because I have only completed 60 days.”
“You realize that this is God speaking to you right now, right?” I asked. “He sends me to help people, and He is telling you that if you learn how to play this instrument, this will be your way to stay sober and live a better life.”
He smiled and said,
“Yes. I know. That’s why I really want that guitar. Maybe you can Google where I am staying and talk to my caseworker.”
I told him I would and had to pull forward as another person pulled in behind me.
I looked up the address, and after some confusion, I was put in touch with someone in human resources. I left a message for the caseworker he had told me to contact.
I realized I had not heard back the next day, so I called and left another message. It was going to be challenging to get rid of me. I was going to keep calling until I got this delivered to him.
After a day of waiting, I was instructed where I could go to drop off the guitar and the speaker. This meant I would have to drive outside of my comfort zone and into the heart of the city that has had a lot of controversy in the past few years. Riots, violence, and other unsavory things have been going on there, but I was not going to be deterred.
I stuffed down my slight anxiety when I felt the darkness that seemed to be there and hurried into the rehab center.
I was greeted by a man sitting at a desk inhaling a donut.
“How can I help you,” he said, shoving in more of it.
“I was told I could drop off a guitar and speaker for a man who lives here.”
When I told him the man’s name, he said,
“Oh. He is learning how to play the guitar, and he is getting good at it.”
“I wasn’t sure this would work out, so I am glad.”
“I am a little jealous. I wish I had a pretty lady dropping off gifts for me.”
I saw that there was a placard on the desk that said Blessed.
“You are blessed, though,” I said quickly to get the attention off of me.
“Not really,” he said, laughing. “Are you nervous?”
I was trying my hardest not to let that show.
“Yes. I am not familiar with this neighborhood. I am always afraid of getting lost, and this isn’t the nicest spot to be in.”
“Me too,” he said. “It is scary down here.”
Another guy came down the stairs.
“This is my boss. Is it okay if she leaves this guitar and speaker?”
When it was explained what I was doing, this man said,
“That is so nice of you! This is his second time in, and he is doing so well.”
“I told him that God was telling him to stay on the path he was on. The guitar was his sign.”
“Do you want to be a counselor here?” The donut guy behind the desk asked. Uh, no.
“God can do anything,” the other man said. “He can just come along and do anything. Everyone needs a sign from God.”
I just wanted about one million angels to escort me back to my car parked by a ladened graffiti building.
“We will be sure he gets that to start using it right away.”
I drove past the donation place on the way home, but there was no sign of him. I am sure they rotate their help where it’s needed. It wasn’t lost on me that I had helped a person to know God loved him. And the weird part was that I wasn’t even aware of it at the time. A musician from heaven was directing my steps.
In Psalm 96, it says this:
Good people, cheer God!
Right-living people sound best when praising.
Use guitars to reinforce your Hallelujahs! (Message)
You never know how you will be used to help others sing a new song.