Wednesday, April 27, 2011
The Rich Man in Me...
Yep, I said "The rich man in me." My name is Jamie...and I'm loaded. Ok, actually I'm not. Actually we're on a very tight budget and it's only by the grace of God that the bills get paid on time, but I'm a rich man.
This blog has been in the works since Saturday, but I just haven't had time to sit down and write. Actually, I'm glad I haven't had time. I just keep hearing stories that I'm hoping to tie in as I write now.
Saturday, one of the churches I serve hosted what was, as far as we can remember, our very first community Easter egg hunt. Now, usually, I'm not big on churches blowing money on Easter egg hunts, but since this was the first big outreach we have done in years I was all over it. I'm not sure what I expected, but I know I didn't expect the lesson I was going to receive. Sure, most of the kids that showed up already had a church home but I was absolutely tickled to see them there. However, not all of the kids that showed up had a church home. We had some from the community come by, and I got to meet them for the first time...that is where this story, and my realization of how rich I really am, begins.
I hate that I can't remember their names (but I do have them written down in the notes I took from Saturday), but I promise you that I will never, as long as I live and breathe, forget the image of them pulling into the parking lot.
Let me stop for a second and say this...I own a Ford Explorer. Well, I own it as long as I keep making the payments on it. It's a relatively nice ride...nicer than I need and certainly nicer than I deserve. I bought it after the ice storm totalled my Jeep. My Explorer was one of several very nice vehicles sitting in the parking lot Saturday, and if I had to venture a guess at the combined retail value of all of those vehicles, I would guess it at somewhere between $175,000 and $250,000 total.
The image in my mind, and the image that is forever seered into my memory, is one of a little red wagon sitting right in the midst of all of those nice vehicles. That was how they came to church. Mom pulled the kids to us in a red wagon. That's right, they walked...and we are not in a town. We loved on those kids, they hunted eggs, and we all had a blast. I don't know that they will ever come back, but I will never, never, ever, forget the image of that little red wagon sitting in our church parking lot and it will forever be a reminder of all that I take for granted. I am a rich man.
But this story didn't end Saturday. God, how I wish it had.
Through a misunderstanding on my part while talking to a dear friend of mine Easter night, I wound up in Bardwell Monday morning. He was in Milan, TN cutting trees so folks could begin to put their lives back together after the first round of storms Saturday. I thought he said he was going to be in Bardwell Monday, so I told Steph, my wife, "I'm going to go to Bardwell and meet Bill in the morning to see if I can help clean up." Bill was in Milan Monday morning. I misunderstood.
He told me, "Hey, since you're there, see where we can plug in and help with the clean up." So I started driving around. Bardwell, to quote my dad from when I was a kid, was, "Torn all to damned pieces." It was a mess. You could barely get through the streets. Bardwell Baptist church was scattered over a half mile. Trees were down, limbs were scattered, debris was everywhere...so I stopped at city hall to see if we could help. Folks were desperate. As I drove around, asking folks if they needed help, I realized that my roof was still on and my trees were still standing. I'm a rich man.
Then it was off to Barlow, Wickliffe, and La Center. More of the same. Trees down...one on a house, one on a truck. Buildings were demolished. I'm a rich man.
Then, Monday night, more storm sirens. Murray and Calloway County were hit this time. Tuesday morning Murray was total chaos. I stopped at city hall there, trying to see if they could use any of our volunteers to help with clean up, and they politely turned me down, so I started driving around looking for folks to help. Trees were down on practically every block, there was a roof missing, and you probably heard about mother nature going cow tipping when she blew the big bull on its side at the Sirloin Stockade. Folks were standing in the streets talking, and the ones I talked to had a look of frustration on their faces. Still, no one accepted my offers of help...until Steve called me.
Steve is on staff at Murray First UMC and called me about a lady who needed some help cleaning up. Wait, I'll come back to her in a minute. As soon as I hung up with him, my phone rang again. This time, it was a lady whose name I didn't catch, but who was telling me about a woman in Oscar who was trying to evacuate. The flood waters were lapping at her door like a pack of hungry wolves, just waiting to devour whatever was within reach. I called the woman and the desperation in her voice was heart breaking. She told me that they were sandbagging her house but she was afraid it wasn't going to work, and she was trying to move as much as she could. Then she asked me for help...please. I made a phone call, and started heading that way. I'm a rich man. Have I mentioned that yet?
I stopped at my house to grab my rubber boots and hip waders. I started to grab my chest waders but thought that if the water was already that high there was nothing we could do. When I got closer to her house, I called a friend of mine who pastors in the area, and told him I was nearly there. He was the phone call I made from Murray and I had asked him to see if he could grab a couple folks to go help this lady. While we were on the phone, he asked me if I would mind stopping to pick up lunch for the volunteers. I said, "Sure, how many folks do you have?" He said, "About 25." I only asked him to get a couple. I'm a very, very rich man.
I joined the 25 or so volunteers trying to save this sweet lady's home, and saw instantly that rubber boots wouldn't cut it, so I donned the hip waders. Thigh deep in flood water, we filled, tied, toted, and stacked one sandbag after another. She and her family had already been stacking sandbags, and we just built on top of what they had already started. So, we sandbagged while they moved furniture out. God, I hope it's enough. I'm a very rich man.
This morning, it was back to Murray to the little lady Steve had called me about yesterday. I found her house, way out in the county, and didn't have any trouble at all finding the reason I was there. There were at least two trees down in her yard. Thankfully, none of them landed on her home. It was obvious she didn't have the resources to pay someone to cut the trees up and haul them off, so I told her not to worry, we would take care of it. At the moment, "we" was just me and my chainsaw...but I've got friends, lots of friends. I'm a very, very, very rich man.
And then this afternoon, the Bear on the Air finished me off. Dang him. I love the Bear. Never met him, but I love the guy. He is partly responsible for my marriage, but that's another blog for another time. He showed up on the radio for his shift, and was talking about how he had spent all morning moving out of his home ahead of the flood. I don't know where he lives, somewhere in Southern Illinois, but evidently the flood water was rising. Then he started talking about all he had been through...he lost a home to fire...earthquakes...the ice storm...and now the floods...
This week I have seen first hand just how important it is not to take anything for granted. And now with levees that are threatened, trees still down, homes still flooded, more homes threatened, and more storms on the way I'm reminded again...my God, I'm a rich man.
Lord, thank you for allowing me to be part of what you are doing to keep the flame of hope alive.