Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Faces On A Map

It seems the whole country has seen whats going on in my little town. Prior to this past weekend, if I mentioned my town's name to someone in another part of the state or another part of the country they might say "from where?".  No one knew where we were.  Now everyone knows because of the fire.  That monstrous beast that stole so much from my town and devastated so many people put us on the map and on the radar.

I have seen amazing photos taken of the fire over the past few days.  It was every bit as big and bad as those pictures represent.  The amount of homes lost and land charred is newsworthy.  But what seems to be missing are the people and their individual stories, of which there are many.

In my little town, we have some people that have money and some that do not.  When it came to the fire, both lost equally.  People, regardless of how much money they had, what they drove or the quality of clothing in their closets, lost everything.  Yet there is one thing that will serve as the defining line between the two groups and that is their ability to rebuild.  Those with ample money had insurance and those that lived a modest life didn't.  Not through their own personal neglect but simply because they didn't have enough money to take care of that detail.  Bills to pay, children to feed and clothe, medical bills and sporadic work, simply didn't leave extra money for the luxury of full coverage for the homes and belongings.

I have heard people say, "well, if they didn't have insurance, then they deserve to not have a place to live."  After  hearing this, I had to think long and hard about how we view our fellow man.  In the face of utter devastation, are we really so calloused that we can judge someone else, a complete stranger and then dismiss them and their needs?  Are we really going to divide ourselves into the deserving and the undeserving?

My brother, who has left his home to stay with us while the fire is still a threat, went into town to have coffee with some friends.  One had already lost his home to the fire.  Self employed, his friend also watched his small mechanic shop go up in flames.  So, in one person, there is an example of someone not only losing their modest home but also their livelihood.

As they sat there drinking their coffee and talking about the day so far, what they had seen and where the smoke was, they watched a family come into the restaurant.  This three generation family sat down at the table near them.  They overheard one of the children ask the dad for a quarter to put into one of those penny toy machines that now cost a whole lot more.  The father sadly shook his head and said, "No, we cant afford that right now."   His friend dug in his pocket, finding all kinds of change but no quarters, so he took what he did have to the counter and got what he needed.  He then took the quarter over to the little girl and off she went to claim her prize.

A few minutes later, the grandfather came over to the table where my brother and friends sat.  Tears streaming down his face, he simply said "Thank you".   No explanation as to why that one quarter was so important but in light of all that has happened to the people of this town, a random act of kindness can have an overwhelming impact and it can touch people deeply.  We all feel that here, the need to go the extra mile to help in the face of so much pain.  Sometimes its as simple as a quarter that feels like a million dollars.

Another man my brother talked to today, was an older gentleman.  He told my brother about how he was going to purchase the last of the wood he would need to start building his home.  He had been saving and storing all the lumber in a large barn and on Saturday, he would have enough and the last purchase of wood would be made.  All the years of saving and planning were coming to an end and soon he could begin building his new home.  Before he could make that last purchase, the fire came through and with five minutes notice to evacuate, he watched not only his home but all the lumber in the barn go up in flames.

In his conversations with people today, of which there were five including his friend, all had lost everything and none had insurance.  I'm sure the stories I've just shared can be echoed a thousand times in my small town.  Each story unique yet all have the same ending.  The fire stole everything and the future is uncertain.

I know that as I deal with people in the community, I will be doing so without judgment.  I will be treating each with the dignity and respect they deserve as human beings.  They are people existing under pressures none of us can imagine unless we have been there.  How much money they have means nothing.  Whether or not they had extra funds to ensure insurance coverage means absolutely nothing to me.  They are a value to our community and they are worthy of my compassion simply because they exist.

It really is that simple.


  1. Thank you for posting this and giving me a new perspective. I used to work at a job that paid me pretty well, and I did my best and still lost my job. Now I'm a cashier at HEB and I've come to learn that this is where I am meant to be right now. Everyday I greet everyone with kindness and respect. I try to get everyone to leave happy and with a smile. Today I answered the phone in the business center while I had a customer. She wanted to know if something she had lost was there. I told her I needed to put her on hold and I would help her in a moment. The transaction I was doing started to take longer than I thought it would, so I went on the phone and let the person on hold know that I had not forgot them and would be with them shortly. When I was able to help her, she expressed how happy she was that I had taken the time to let her know she was not forgotten. The simple little things like that have been making me feel more content with this job, than just about any job I have ever had. All I have to do is show kindness and consideration all day, and it keeps coming back to me, as well. It's wonderful. Anyway, thanks again for sharing your story. Even though I live fairly close to you, it was still too far to really understand what is going on. God bless you and your community.

  2. I am humbled by your comment. I'm glad you were able to see my intent with this post. We all have so many chances each day to make a difference in the lives of others and they are moments to be seized. Thank you for being one of those people that see beyond self and status. Remember, we are exactly where we are suppose to be doing exactly what we need to do for this moment in time. That alone is powerful. Thank you for reading and blessings to you and yours.