This sign was posted on a large tree in front of an oceanfront property that happened to be having an estate sale in progress last week.
It appeared on day two of the sale. It wasn’t there the first morning, when everyone was gathering outside, some experienced estate-salers, and others like me, who happened to be driving past and stopped, intrigued because a) I just happened to be there nice and early (a must if you want the good stuff, I’m sure) and b) because it was being held inside a lovely, oceanfront home, with grounds, a guest house, that sort of thing.
I parked, not at all ready to face anyone for the day, having just dropped the kids at school but thanks to my Ocean Waves sunglasses and MAC’s Oh Baby lipgloss I felt enough of a disguise to emerge and interact with the others who were gathering.
Clearly the people were divided into two groups: seasoned estate sale shoppers, and the casually curious. I was in the latter group. I learned that we were to sign up for a number, that the first 30 people would be admitted at 9:00 am (it was just 8:00 when I arrived) and if you were not there when your number was called, you were out of luck. On to the next.
I signed in at number 30 and settled into a white Adirondack chair to enjoy the conversation amongst us and was mostly curious just to see the house. It was truly a superb location – directly oceanfront with a guest house and lovely, spacious, treed back yard. People mingled about, I saw many familiar faces, and we had a few laughs.
The estate sale manager was a curmudgeonly fellow who opened the door a few times to snap directions, then sort of shutting it hard (just shy of a true slam) on us, making us giggle at his surly demeanor and wonder… why? Well, I’ve been known to be a bit surly myself at times so perhaps he wasn’t having a happy day.
Anyway, I was permitted in at last – turns out he only let the first 27 people in – and roamed the spacious old home and wondering about the supposedly 90-something woman who’d lived, and died there. I didn’t find any treasures although I nearly bought a set of Royal Worcester egg coddlers: darling china cups with screw-on tops with a ring for lifting them from the boiling water but I stopped myself. I hate eggs! While my daughters love them, I just knew that had I bought them, surely neither girl would like hers coddled anyway.
So I decided on the sturdy, white Adirondack chair I’d sat on while waiting for admittance to the sale! It’s heavy, and even folds up. It looks nice on my black deck at home.
When driving past the following morning, I saw that sign taped to a tree and it gave me pause. I wondered, “really, would someone take a chance on loan like that?” So while writing this post I decided to find out.
I called Michael’s number and had a nice chat with him and unfortunately the only call he’d had, besides mine, was from a reporter who’d been tipped off by someone who saw the sign, like me, and wanted to do a story on him.
That kind of broke my heart, as Michael told me he declined the story (which could’ve actually helped his situation) as he did not want to embarrass his 15 year old. It’s Michael who has gone back to school after a year of unemployment and is now caught in a sort of bureaucratic tangle of reinstated unemployment benefits and school enrollment and financial aid deadlines … and so now he’s just hoping he can stave things off a few more days, hoping the benefits will come through by June 2 or 4, which will still allow him to enroll (and pay). Otherwise he’ll be pleading with the faculty to allow him to stay in the classes until the unemployment does come; there’s the added complication of his needing to use the financial aid grant by a certain date.
Honestly, he sounded quite genuine – he’s appears to be a man in a jam who is trying to equip himself with new skills in a different career so he can take care of himself and his family in this dreadful economy. He didn’t complain, or try to talk me into giving him the money. He just told me his story, while I felt so badly that the two calls he’d received were from persons merely interested in writing about his predicament.
So many are frankly unaffected by these economic times. The popular restaurants in town are full every night; you can’t find a place to park in our Beaches Town Center or the other mega-shopping centers in Jacksonville. But there are plenty who feel the anxiety of an uncertain future and are driven to posting signs pleading for a loan for school tuition. He’s also out selling bottles of water and whatnot just to earn the money it truly sounds like he needs.
I don’t know; the whole thing seemed sadly ironic. People with cash to spend at an estate sale while another person’s desperate for the reinstatement of unemployment benefits and needs to use student loan money to buy books for classes he’s not sure he’ll be able to take because he cannot pay his tuition at the moment.
May the Lord have mercy on him and make way his future.
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Jeannie Greenwald is a blogger, neighborhoods / 'go local' evangelist, hobbyist photographer, and degreed psychologist.