Stone House Diary 5.7.2015

Sincerest and Most Heartfelt Thank You!

There are many things I am good at. Unfortunately, asking for help is not one of them. In fact, I am so bad at asking for help that I will go out of my way not to. I’d rather be crushed by a fifty-pound sack of feed while pushing an overloaded shopping cart through a torrential downpour than ask for help. I’d rather wrestle a full-size mattress, box spring and bed frame up the stairs, around three corners, and through a narrow doorway than ask for help. I’d rather stay awake all night finishing a huge custom-printing job than ask for help.

And yet, I love to help others. It comes as naturally to me as breath­ing. Two weeks after the tornado, a friend needed help preparing her home for realtors. Without a second thought, I hied myself to her place and had a ball helping her clean and stage the house. A few days later, another friend needed her lawn mowed. I spent a glorious hour that afternoon happily riding her extra-zippy mower around the yard. A few days after that, another friend needed to go to the Emergency Room. I was so glad to drive her there, to keep her company and help ease her pain and fear during such a scary situation.

Helping is a privilege. A rare, exceptional gift. An opportunity to do something that really matters for someone. Whether for a family member, friend, or stranger, helping profoundly says, “I care.” I love to help!

So why is it so difficult to me to ask for the same from others?

Well, the make-me-look-good, yet honest answer is that I don’t want to inconvenience anyone – Everyone is busy with work, family, farms and animals. Everyone has limited time, money and energy, with precious little to spare. Everyone has their own priorities. Getting to them is hard enough without asking some­one to add mine to their pile.

The less-selfless, equally honest answer is that asking for help makes me feel somehow incompetent or needy, weak, terribly embarrassed and ashamed. As absurd as it is, there is a little voice inside that says I should be able to carry a fifty-pound sack of feed while pushing an overloaded shopping cart though a torrential downpour. Of course I can move a full-size bed into the guest room by myself. Yes, I will finish this custom-printing job by 6 a.m., thank you very much. Even when I was diagnosed and treated for cancer, I absolutely, positively hated asking for help.

However, when the tornado hit, the destruction it caused was far greater than anything I could man­age alone. This time, I had to ask for help. It wasn’t easy, but I did. I asked. And the community responded! Oh, how they responded! Friends, neighbors and family poured out to salvage what­ever was salvageable, clean up whatever was cleanable and pile up for burning anything that was burn­able. They worked tirelessly, brought equipment in, loaned tools and a trailer for hauling away debris. After one month, the land around my home is finally, finally starting to look “normal” again.

The damage wasn’t all salvageable or cleanable or burnable. Some of it – the roof, windows, beds and other household items need costly repairs and replacements. As expensive as it is, my little voice refused – ada­mantly – to ask for financial help. I simply couldn’t do it.

But beloved friends Bert and Dean Scherer and Brenda Massy could. And did. Without telling me they organized a Pie Supper for me at the Vanzant Community Center. They placed ads in newspapers and handed out flyers. Friends online, Tracee Davis and the fine folks at the Vanzant Baptist Church among them, caught wind of the benefit and posted it on Facebook. I learned about it there and was astounded and deeply touched. A little embar­rassed, too. Instead of putting the kibosh on the benefit, though, thanked the loving organizers.

You can put up with a lot of embarrassment when you really need the help.

A friend and the quilt donator, Eunice Akerson, contacted me shortly before the benefit was to be held. She wondered if I was feeling a bit antsy about the benefit. When I confessed that I was, she said, “…just keep a smile on your face and feel the love others are shower­ing on you… The people around Vanzant know how to take care of their own and will usually have a benefit when someone needs help. It won’t be enough to replace every­thing you’ve lost, but it’ll help. It brings the community closer together and makes everyone feel good.”

It helped me enormously to know that the community gained some­thing from the benefit, too. That holding it helped to keep the weave and weft binding us together all the tighter.

The benefit was held last Saturday evening and to say that I was blown away by everyone who came is an understatement. I was astounded! I’ve never been hugged so many times in one night, so consoled, heard so many other tales of survival after tornadoes, house fires, other natural disasters. I’ve never been given so much hope.

And everyone’s generosity? Simply, utterly amazing!

People brought pies, cakes, cook­ies, fresh eggs, homegrown meat, household items, tools, gloves, paintings, handmade quilts, dolls, and clothing. The fine folks at Tri­County Gas donated five 17-pound propane tank refills, Dominoes gave free pizza certificates, Pizza Hut donated free treats, Lawson Curtis gave outdoors items and a man whose name I did not get donated a one hour flight in a small plane! Bidders bid eighty dollars for a dozen homemade cookies, one hun­dred and five on a pie, seventy on a pair of gloves…!

By the end of the evening, over three thousand dollars had been raised.

Chances are, you grew up here and benefits like this are common to you. Maybe you’ve even been the recipient of one. But I didn’t grow up here. I’ve only been here 11 years. These kinds of events are still new to me. I’ve been to quite a few for other people, felt good about having been a part of them. But being on the receiving end of so much caring and kindness? Never before! I was overwhelmed by the kindness of it all, becoming tearful many times, breaking into sobs at one point.

To everyone who laughed, con­soled, hugged, helped, donated items, auctioned, bid, lent me a shoulder to cry on, offered prayers and love and hope, from the very depth of my heart, thank you! You have made a profound difference in my life and I am eternally grateful.