by Anna Kurnizki, Executive Director
Mich, a former staff member and longtime superstar volunteer, stopped by the Portland Warehouse to inventory wine for Chair Affair (much of which was donated from her personal collection). I spontaneously asked her to dinner. She excitedly accepted. It had been so long since we’d gotten together, and we were ready to brush off the quarantine dust and catch up on life and Community Warehouse news.
On a Wednesday night, we met at a new place, a cozy little bar called Arrowood. Unbeknownst to us, they were hosting a comedy night. And if you know anything about me or Mich, you may not be surprised that we chose to sit at the “community table” – otherwise known as “the front row seat that gets picked on all night.” Most people avoid that front table. But, Mich and I are the kids that sat in the front row at school. We crave the public humiliation of karaoke. Our hands are first in the air to volunteer for, well, pretty much anything.
With a little help from some wine and the excitement of the night, and we were raucously heckling the comedians back and forth, telling them how we knew each other, getting called “a couple of White Claws” (great one), and making sure everyone in the place knew when a joke didn’t land.
When we got up around 10:50 PM to leave, the host stopped us. “Where are you going?!”
“Well, we work in the morning, unlike everyone else here,” I joked.
“You’ll come back next week, right?” he asked, sincerely. We were more than a little flattered, and promised we’d return to hold down the community table another night.
We piled into our Lyft, still high on the spirit of the evening, and regaled our driver with stories and jokes that we’d just experienced. We laughed together. The conversation eventually turned more personal, as it often does with us and strangers. (We get comfortable pretty fast.) After our driver dropped Mich off, she and I began to talk about the high prices and limited availability of housing.
And she told me a personal story. That she and her partner actually had to live in her car temporarily. THIS car. The car that now, through Lyft driving, helps her pay their bills and stay housed. The car that was now transporting me home.
I said, “I don’t know where you are at now, but if you need furniture, I work at this place called Community -”
“Community Warehouse?!” she interrupted. “I got my furniture from there!”
“That’s great!” I said, surprised and delighted.
She gushed: “I got this awesome white couch and a bunch of other things. Community Warehouse was so great. I want to get into social work now. I’m looking for places that are hiring.”
We had just pulled up to my house, but we kept talking. I gave her my card. I told her that while Community Warehouse isn’t hiring for social workers, we have tons of relationships with other social service organizations, and I might be able to help connect her with someone. We felt connected. It was wonderful.
After I got out of her car, I practically floated to my front door. It was a magical night.
And that’s the thing about Warehouse magic. It is the magic that our community gives to us.