By Jordan D’Silva, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross
Human resiliency is on display no better than when someone who has lost everything finds a reason to be joyful.
On Wednesday morning, Sept. 21, I had the opportunity to assist the Red Cross in giving aid to a man in Spencer, Oklahoma whose house had been engulfed in flames the night before. Being led by two outstanding Red Cross volunteers, Olivia and Bill, our job was to provide physical, emotional, and financial support as he dealt with the deeply personal disaster.
When we arrived, the scene was undoubtedly bleak. Smoke was still climbing from the mounds of rubble. The roof was caved in and a rusty car sat in what used to be a garage, covered in dust, rock, and metal. And the victim, noticeably shaken, looked beat up from the inside out, sleepless and still in shock from the enormous loss dealt to him just hours before.
We immediately began the aid-giving process, which started by finding out possible living situations and getting a list of lost valuables including medicines and identification cards. He let us know that he was going to stay with his brother, but that he had lost all his medicines in the flames. He further admitted, that virtually the only clothes he had left, were the ones on his back. From his honest input and based on our own calculations, we determined an amount adequate to fit his clothing, food, medicine, and temporary housing needs. Then we provided him the money along with a comfort kit holding hygiene products among other things.
Oh and of course, in between all of that was Bill and Olivia taking gracious care of the rather large amount of paperwork, while I was busy doing my own self-assigned job.
My job: to get the victim’s mind off the disaster and hopefully on to something a little more positive.
So, naturally, I asked about his family. He let me know that the house he had just lost had been in his family for over three generations. Showing sympathy, but seeking to change the mood, I asked about his kids. I had pressed the right button. He raved about his son, telling the story of how his son had gotten a scholarship to Yale and had graduated with high honors. He proudly touted that his son had just become the associate pastor for a mega church in Dallas. He lamented, almost sarcastically, on how his son would be a lead pastor if he wasn’t so picky about his women. I had to laugh about that one, remembering my own father’s “expert” opinions on my love life. The more we talked, the more I peeled back the onion and got to really know him, if just for a few brief minutes.
In fifteen minutes of conversation, we had gone from total strangers, to neighbors, laughing and talking on the front porch steps.
Before we left, Olivia gave him some last words of advice and had him sign a few documents, fulfilling our duty of providing aid and making sure that he had everything needed to get back on his feet.
And as we headed to the truck, to head back to Oklahoma City, I glanced back to see his next steps.
No movement. Just a look to the sky and smile: a sign of hope, and a reminder of the joy that comes in the morning.