Thursday, September 7, 2017

I Was Embarrassed

They had come all the way from Eagle Pass to help our neighbors here in Conroe clean up after hurricane Harvey.  These two Hispanic men had driven over 5 hours to help people they did not know.  Although they had been here since Monday, I just met them today (Thursday).  I worked all day along side of them tearing down sheet rock, shoveling up wet debris, and hauling it out to the curb.  Throughout the course of the day I found out a lot about this father and son team.

The father has spent most of his life as a missionary.  While he is currently involved with a shelter for homeless people in a border town, responding to crisis like Harvey is his thing.   For decades he's responded to tragic events like this.  While he and his son were here doing work this week, their mission was not to come for a few days and then go back home.  They were here to assess things then to return home in order to mobilize a team of people to come back.

I was amazed as the father shared stories of how he had spent his life responding to the needs of people in crisis situations.  I'm not sure how old the gentleman was but I'm thinking well into his 60s pushing 70.  I know I only got a small sampling of his life's work, but that small bit was incredible.  I asked his son if this had been the only life he had known to which he smiled and responded, "Yes.  It's been great though."

Most of what I discovered about them was during a short meal break.  Someone had come by offering jambalaya to the volunteers working in our neighborhood.  It was their first experience eating jambalaya but I'm thinking they're hooked.  They actually took one order for the road.

One of the things we've discovered is that in cleaning out houses after a flood, there isn't really anywhere to sit down.  All the chairs end up in the trash heap along with everything else.  Wanting to sit down and eat after being on their feet all day, these two men grabbed a couple of chairs from a neighboring garbage pile.  They were filthy chairs that had been covered in flood waters and sitting in a pile of trash for several days.  But, that didn't matter, they needed a place to sit for a moment and these chairs would do the job.

We went back to work for another hour or so before we were all wiped out.  As we were loading up our tools my two co-workers for the day were approached by a neighbor.  There was no, "Hello."  No, "Where are you guys from?"  No, "Thank you so much for serving our neighborhood."  Instead they were greeted with an accusation.  "You aren't stealing stuff from any of these piles are you?"

I was floored.  I couldn't believe it.  I was embarrassed.  I was completely embarrassed.  I quickly jumped into the conversation to defend them.  I couldn't help but notice that she didn't approach me.  She approached two men who looked different.  Two men who spoke a little different.  I took it a bit personal.  Though I had not known these men very long, I felt connected with them.  We had served together working side by side for a few hours.  They felt like family.  The accusation stung a bit and I wanted to set things right.  When I approached the older man and tried to apologize for the whole thing, he waved his hand and said it was no problem.  He came to serve because it was in his heart to do so. God had put compassion in his heart for our community and that's why he came.  He was not going to let this one little thing affect him.

I understand that emotions are high right now.  This community was hit with a major blow.  People have lost so much and they are trying to start again.  And I know there are those out there that would love to take advantage of those who are hurting.  What is abundantly evident though is that for every one of them there are thousands of others who have determined to help those in our communities who are in need.  In our assuming we would all do good to assume the best of people.

Juan and Mizrael were two of thousands that have hit our neighborhood this week to help us pick up the pieces that Harvey left behind.  They along with so many others didn't show up to take but to give.  If this lady had taken the time to get to know them, she would have discovered they would have been willing to do anything to give of themselves to her neighbors instead of take from them. 

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