On Monday, my wife and I learned that a local restaurant was trying to fill a huge container full of items to be taken down to Houston, TX to help victims of Hurricane Harvey. We were going to donate the usual, you know… paper towels, TP, diapers, water, canned goods, blah… blah… blah… Maybe write a check to an organization. However, during our conversation, I was reminded of my own experiences with disaster and loss. At that point, it became personal and we realized we could do more.
Shortly after moving down to the west coast of Florida in the mid ‘80’s, I experienced a flood. Sure, I lost things. Mostly furniture, electronics, and anything exposed to a few feet of water. Fortunately, insurance took care of most of it. It was inconvenient and it sucked. I can understand the anxiety associated with the event… but it doesn’t count.
Fast forward to the mid ‘90’s. Shortly after moving to the east coast of the Sunshine State, I DID experience a life altering event. My personal disaster and loss helps me relate completely to what so many are going through down in Houston and other parts of the south. I got to watch my house burn down. I got to watch everything I owned and worked hard for my whole life disappear before my very eyes. EVERYTHING. To make matters worse, I was renting the house and hadn’t spent the $100 or so it would have cost me for renter’s insurance. When the fire was eventually extinguished, all I had left to my name were the clothes I was wearing and one of my vehicles that was parked outside the garage. I can’t even begin to describe all the feelings and emotions that overcame me.
I was 2 years into starting my Internet Consulting business. I didn’t have a big bank account. My computers were gone. The software I used for my business was gone. My clothes were gone. My furniture was gone. My personal possessions that I’d collected over the years were gone. My awesome collection of vinyl records and tapes… photos… books… knick-knacks… keepsakes… collectibles and irreplaceable things. Everything. Gone.
I had no family living near me. I wasn’t known in the community to the extent that I am today. I had never felt so empty, helpless, and hopeless.
I DID have friends… and those friends were AMAZING! They began to reach out to their friends and before long, churches were taking collections. Businesses became “drop off” locations for items. A school even held a fundraising sporting event. For little ol’ me. The feelings of emptiness, helplessness, and hopelessness were quickly replaced with humility, tears of appreciation, and comfort.
Yes… there were money donations… food donations… etc… and although those were greatly appreciated, there were donations I appreciated even more. I received bags… and bags… and bags… and boxes… more boxes… more bags… all filled with clothing, dishes, utensils, small appliances, etc… Sure… it was a good opportunity for people to clean out their closets and garages… and I received some interesting and unusual items. Someone donated a boat anchor and I didn’t even own a boat! But I was grateful. EXTREMELY grateful. Grateful beyond words! The outpouring of generosity was simply unbelievable. People took time… went through their homes… found things that they were willing to part with to help a stranger… someone they’d never met.
So, instead of sending money, or going out and buying the usual items, my wife and I went through our closets. Shirts… pants… skirts… suits… jackets… etc… We decided that if we hadn’t worn something during the past year, we were donating it. We were amazed at how much we collected! Some items still had price tags on them. Guess the purchases seemed like a good idea at the time… we just never got around to actually wearing them.
I don’t share this story for sympathy. My life is awesome! I’ve never been in a happier place in my entire life! I don’t share this story to tell people how to help. You know what they say. Every little bit helps. I simply felt the need to share a perspective that can’t be understood completely unless it’s been experienced. There are so many ways to help. What’s important is that we DO help… how we can… when we can. You never know when you might find yourself in a spot where the generosity of strangers is your only hope.