I’ll never forget hearing that phrase, “Their house is gone.”
I had been watching news coverage of the Silver Fire in Banning, CA all day long, vigilant because of dear friends living in that area. With my calls going straight to voice mail I decided to go to bed. The phone rang an hour later. It was a brief call because I had no words, my boyfriend only knew that our friends were able to save their dogs & themselves. I fell asleep in tears, unable to process the news just yet.
Wes, Melissa & Sky Anderson have been my friends for a couple of years. They are a wonderful family and I felt lost for them, not knowing where they were, what to do or how I could “fix” this. I knew that they only had what they were wearing at that moment, their dogs, 2 of their cars, a couple of cameras & the laundry they grabbed. Can you imagine having to grab all that is precious to you with only minutes to make the decision & take action?
What happened next took me by surprise just as much as the fire itself. I told my work family what happened & put word of the Anderson’s need out there on Facebook. They needed everything- a place to stay, clothes, food, toiletries & everything to furnish a home, when they got one.
The blessings started pouring in. Donations of every kind imaginable started showing up at my desk at work. Friends contacted me to find out how to get them housewares & furniture. Huge bags of dog & cat food, cases of water, fancy skin care products, a significant watermelon & so much more. Sky is 13 & a musician but no longer had her equipment so my band-boyfriend talked to his endorsers & got some of it replaced. The thing that made it so amazing is that nobody who donated had ever met the Andersons, they just knew they needed help.
I packed my car & boyfriend’s truck more than a dozen times with this abundance & filled their hotel room to the ceiling. What they didn’t need or couldn’t use went to the 25 other families in their area that had also lost everything. I put the word out about these other families, also in need and once again, the floodgates opened. An entire community was being blessed by complete strangers – I have never been so humbled & inspired in my life!
• Don’t underestimate your ability to change someone’s life – It can be simple. A smile & hello in passing, a shoulder to cry on or a couple dollars. But you could spark a chain reaction of random acts of kindness, give someone the strength to face their challenges or maybe even save a life. You may never think about it again, but that person won’t forget it. Wes, Melissa & Sky are always doing good deeds & paying it forward and when they were the ones in need, I got to step in, inspired by their example. They have changed me for the better by just allowing me to help them.
• Put yourself out there sincerely – If you offer to help, be realistic, genuine & be ready to act. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver or suddenly be unavailable when they take you up on your offer. Reinforce offers to help by extending them again & again- as Neil O’Connor says, “Be bold. If you get your hand slapped once, that’s OK. Try again anyways.” The Andersons never asked for anything, even when they needed everything. They showed me that it’s OK to accept help that you haven’t asked for but truly need.
• Things are just things – We all like our things, but we can live without them if we had to. Things can be replaced but people can’t (we all know that too well). Sometimes though, it’s hard to remember that your worth is not in the things you have but in who you are.
Melissa gave me an amazing gift recently, saying “I will never be able to repay you for helping us get back on our feet but I can give you my love & friendship.” Mel, that is the best repay possible, being worthy of your friendship.
Read Melissa’s article on what this awful experience was like by clicking here. The photos are heart-breaking. But there’s hope, there’s people & there are so many that give.