In high school, I had joined up with a hodgepodge group of students, kids really, who got together on a monthly basis for volunteer activities (not the kind of community service where you're picking up litter on the side of the highway in orange jumpsuits, don't worry).
One particularly chilly and drizzly Saturday morning, we drove to a lady's house out in the older part of town. Pulling up to her driveway, we were confronted with a scene straight out of Hoarders. Imagine that the contents of every rummage sale in the world was stuffed into a garage. Then imagine someone took the garage, picked it up and shook it. There were garbage bags and cardboard boxes piled from wall to wall and higher than I could see over. Coming around the corner, we could see additional outbuildings in the backyard that were overflowing and in a similar state.
We were ushered into the house, which I expected was going to be overrun with cats but was surprisingly uncluttered, where we met a lady, the founder of an organization whose mission was based on improving the conditions of orphanages and providing medical attention to orphans in Romania. The garbage bags and boxes were full of donated items that were given to the charity during the year, and she instructed us to sort through them and pick out items that could potentially be resold.
Each of us was handed a pair of work gloves and we got to it. One thing teenagers can do without much instruction and supervision is sifting through mounds of junk looking for something of value. It's called - what happens when you drop something and you haven't cleaned your room in months.
While I was rummaging through the stacks in the back of the garage, something fell over with a clatter. By the pale light that filtered through the back of the building, I could hardly see that the object that had fallen to the floor - a black and white etching, about the size of an 8 by 11 sheet of paper, in a simple wooden frame. The etching was clean and modern and the drawing was completed with only a few dark lines - a man on a horse. Curious as to what the piece was and who it was by, I turned it over and my heart caught in my throat.
Pasted to the back of the frame, underneath the wire strung across the two ends, was a certificate authenticating the sketch as an original Salvador Dali. In a daze, I walked it over to the head of our volunteer group and after several short exclamations, he quickly whisked it inside. The sorting became much more vigorous after that and at the end of our shift, we were taken back inside. The lady, quite breathlessly, explained to us that she had immediately called Christie's and they were sending an appraiser out to examine the piece. All proceeds from the sale would go to the orphanage, and she was in tears as she enveloped me into a warm hug.
To this day, I still wonder if the person who donated the etching knew what they were giving away. Or if it got jumbled in an estate sale and ended up in the back of the garage by chance. It's as romantic as I let myself get, thinking about my brush with Mr. Dali.