A hero gave me a few minutes of his time last Wednesday. After five days, I finally tracked down Chuck Reeves, a Red Cross volunteer from Knoxville. He’d been busy feeding Hurricane Harvey’s victims in a Texas town called The Woodlands.
People there were far from out of the woods, and Chuck was making a big difference by bringing them hot meals with a side order of hugs. Suddenly, though, he had to roll. There were folks to feed. I wished him well and got busy myself. I had about a dozen minutes to tell his story.
Two mistakes happened in the rush. We messed up the town’s name and, far more importantly, I didn’t think to mention how we can support Chuck and the people he’s helping. I’ll fix that in a bit.
Since then, another storm stole the headlines. Irma slammed Florida on Sunday and hit closer to home for me. Some of my closest friends live there. I’m glad people like Chuck are there to help.
In the decade I lived in Florida, I never lived through the long slog of a hurricane. They’re different from tornadoes. They give you more time to prepare and more time to worry.
But just like tornadoes, they bring a world of hurt. Several tornadoes tore through Largo, a town near me, in 1992. A neighborhood named Dansville was hit worst. I went there to see how my church could help.
I walked up to an old lady rocking on a rickety porch swing. Her house seemed about to fall over. Her yard was buried in trash. The whole block looked the same. I told her I’d come to help tornado victims.
“That’s real nice,” she said, “but you wanna head ‘bout three blocks south and help those poor folks. We didn’t get a scratch.”
Her home looked like that every day. It was fine, except things were far from fine.
Right then, I realized that there’s a storm that she and billions of other people endure every day. It devastates homes, it destroys dignity, it dooms people. Nobody gives it a cute name like Harvey or Irma.
It’s just called poverty. It doesn’t show up on radar, but it’s all over - in India, in Dansville, and to be sure in Marion County. Hurricanes come and go. Poverty sticks around for generations, sucking in more people every day.
I spoke to some other heroes last Friday. Myles and Mary Jane Murphy have been volunteering around here for years, mostly helping poor and elderly people.
I’m not smart enough to explain the work Myles is best known for. For years, he helped senior citizens navigate the complexities of Medicare. I was better suited to help in another of Myles’ pastimes, loading his car to the brim with food he’d deliver to homebound elderly folks.
I handled a few deliveries for him one winter day. A few houses I visited took me back to that porch in Florida, only with snow. Different folks, but spinning their wheels in the same ruts of poverty.
Myles still has some tread left on his tires, but he’s smart enough at 81 to slow down. He’s also wise enough to know that storms will keep coming, and more people need to step up.
We can be heroes like Chuck and Myles and Mary Jane.
We can join in Chuck’s work by texting REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10, calling (800) RED-CROSS to give any amount, or applying to volunteer at www.redcross.org.
We can volunteer time or donate money to some of Myles’ favorite causes, such as the Senior Health Insurance Information Program at (800) 351-4664, Good Samaritan Free Clinic at (641) 842-3712 or Helping Hands at (641) 842-6933.
Whatever storms may come, are we ready to face them?