Hurricane Irma, one of the largest storms in history, ripped through the entire state of Florida, leaving a path of death and destruction in its wake. We were fortunate enough to survive the storm, however, our house did not fare as well. Flood waters flowed throughout the rooms, while a damaged roof leaked water from above. The deck was demolished, the fence laid on the ground, and debris littered the yard. As heartbreaking as it was, this story is not about our devastating loss, but about the days that followed...
After 96 hours straight of rescuing those stranded in flooded waters, Steve was given the day off from the fire station to go home and rest. Unfortunately, there was not time to rest, for water damage restoration is a time-sensitive process. He was exhausted and I was no better off. Evacuating days prior with a one year old and three dogs resulted in numerous sleepless nights. So there we stood in the middle of the damage-too tired to think and too overwhelmed to even know where to begin- when cars began to pull into the driveway. Help had arrived.
Family, friends, even complete strangers, took time away from their own needs to tend to ours. What should have been weeks of work, took merely hours. They ripped out carpet, bagged clothing and linens, brought cleaning supplies, cut out drywall, picked up debris, and even made dinner. It was incredible, inspiring, and it was only the beginning.
Our friends made a few phone calls and by the end of the day, entire communities had pitched in to help. Someone we had never met, opened both their heart and their home to us so we could have a place to stay. While I made insurance calls, bags of laundry were distributed to people wanting to help, cars were packed with salvaged items, and later unloaded into storage. One good deed after another. We never asked for help, but that is the beauty of kindness, we never had to.
The sun began to set and Steve had to go back on shift early the next morning. It was time to call it a day. A long, emotional, and tiresome day. The drive was quiet as we tried to process it all- the house, the damage, the months to come. How could we possibly afford to start over? How could we handle all the stress? What about the baby? Just when I was about to break down, Steve broke the silence. "They say God never gives you more than you can handle." We giggled. In our 12 years of marriage, this saying has become our mantra. It seems that God thinks we are pretty tough. Maybe it is because He knows there is still good in this fallen world, and what we can not handle on our own, He places others in our lives who will come to our aid. Little did we know, the acts of kindness would continue.
We were met at the front door of our temporary residence with a post-it-note that simply stated, "Welcome Home." Inside, we discovered the closets were filled with our clothes, all cleaned, pressed, and hung. The refrigerator was stocked and the pantry overflowed with food, dog treats, and supplies. A borrowed crib had been set up for our daughter and toys were placed nearby. On the counter were gift cards, cash, and notes of encouragement from the neighbors. We were speechless. In that moment, there was a sense of peace that overtook all the fear. We may not know what tomorrow will bring, but we knew everything would be okay. For that day, in the midst of despair, there was kindness.
We live in a world seemingly consumed with fear and divided by hate, but there is good to be found. There are people with a genuine desire to help others, to give hope to those that struggle, and to be the good we so desperately need. These small acts of kindness are by no means small- they are life-changing. In this past month, there have been earthquakes, hurricanes, wildfires, and just this past weekend, the deadliest mass shooting in recent U.S. history. Tragedy surrounds us and our hearts are heavy. But, in all the devastation, the chaos, and the fear, there is love. Some of the greatest acts of kindness come in our darkest hours. There are those that run towards the gunfight, those that sacrifice themselves to save others, those that do what they can by donating money or supplies, and those that show up after a hurricane to help rip out water-soaked carpet. These are our everyday heroes, and for them, we are eternally grateful.
In everything you do, be sure to do it with love. Your acts of kindness, no matter if they are great or small, can change a life and change the world.