Early Monday morning, October 24, 2005, wild hurricane Wilma hit Boynton Beach, Florida with a vengeance that suggested she had finally unleashed a grudge built up against us for years. The sound of her fury was terrifying and the winds seem to howl “judgment day has arrived.”
As I shared with a friend in the aftermath of Wilma’s uninvited visit, I am not one who frightens easily, but this experience was horrific and the only thing that brought me any degree of peace in the midst of it was knowing that my Father was with me in my “safe place” for He was the One who made it safe.
I believe it was Dr Lawrence M. Gould, former president of Carleton College, who once said “I do not believe the greatest threat to our future is from bombs or guided missiles. I do not think our civilization will end that way. I think it will die when we no longer care.” Surely Dr. Gould is correct. Care is the driving force behind kindness and the power that enables man to help himself through the simple act of helping others.
Of course, we all know this to be true. Our history is rich with the realities of man forgetting himself in crisis and reaching out to help his neighbor. Many have given their lives for the sake of those they never even had the opportunity to personally meet. Many of us touch people’s lives everyday through simple acts of loving kindness. It may not be broadcasted across the net and it may never become newspaper headlines, and it may never be a topic of discussion on Oprah, but millions of people around the world unconditionally and unselfishly extend themselves in ways that only they can and for the benefit of others. Neither hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes nor anything else can obliterate that deeply entrenched capacity of man to care for one another; to do all that is within our power to offer some measure of relief to hurting souls, particularly in times of severe testing.
I was standing in the middle of my living room dreading the inevitable chore of moving furniture out of Wilma’s way in the event she chose to invade my personal space, when a knock at the door jolted me out of the trancelike state I was in. It was my neighbor Barry asking if I was prepared for Wilma. Responding in the negative he asked me to escort him to his car which I did. Once there he opened his trunk and took out a case of bottled water and told me it was for me. I was flabbergasted, surprised and totally caught off guard. Water was my number one priority among items I had to be sure I secured. I thanked him profusely and offered to reimburse him which he flatly refused and seemed offended that I should be making such a ridiculous suggestion. He also let me borrow a flashlight that was, in a sense, self rechargeable.
There is another neighbor, Brian Conte, who was especially kind to me and others during this crisis period. It wasn’t surprising really because that is something that I had observed about his personality. He is kind in nature and loving in spirit. The sort of person who would give you the shirt off his back before he realized it was his only one. Then, after discovering it, would purchase another only to once again give it away. In my mind, he is the personification of kindness and God blessed me richly when He permitted my making his acquaintance.
It just so happens that his brother, Larry, provided him with a generator (probably other aids as well) which certainly improved his quality of life in the absence of services normally rendered by Florida Power and Light. It wasn’t too long after that that he knocks on my door holding a pot of coffee. I could not believe it. It was just what I wished I had. He then invited me over to his place and offered me not only some additional non-perishables and a big bag of ice (how did he know my needs?) but good company as well.
Isn’t this what we mean when we talk about passing on kindness? Brian was blessed through the random act of Larry (generator). I was blessed through Brian having been blessed. Someone will be blessed through my having been blessed through Brian having been blessed and so on and so on and where it stops, nobody knows.
I am always deeply touched by those who help me without being asked and not expecting anything in return; those who, like Barry and Brian, offered to share when they did not have to. I would not have been the wiser nor would I have been worse off. God’s gift lay in the fact that by their choosing to extend kindness to me, I was better off. Though I am sharing from my personal encounters with these angels, both Barry and Brian are known for lending helping hands to many of our community residents.
Well, it is not feasible to write about everything positive that came my way in spite of the negative winds of Wilma. Suffice it to say, God truly blessed me during a time when my finances were tight and my physical and spiritual abilities weakened by circumstances. Random acts of kindness by caring people made all the difference.
To Brian and Barry I dedicate one of my favorite poems written by Joseph Clark.
THANK GOD FOR YOU
Thank God for you, good friend of mine.
Seldom is friendship such as thine;
How very much I wish to be
As helpful to others as you’ve been to me.
Of many prayer guests, one thou art
On whom I ask God to impart
Rich blessings from His storeroom rare,
And grant to you His gracious care.
When I recall, from time to time,
How you inspired this heart of mine:
I find myself inclined to pray,
God bless my friend this very day.
So often, at the throne of Grace,
There comes a picture of your face:
And then, instinctively, I pray
That God may guide you all the way.
Some day, I hope with you to stand
Before the throne, at God’s right hand:
And to say to you – at journey’s end;
Praise God, you’ve been to me a friend.
Thank God for you, friends of mine.