Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Helping Hands In Arkansas

I received this email this morning from a dear friend who really and truly writes emails like this all the time. She tells in great detail of all their family adventures and it's never a dull moment. But this is particularly touching to me and I wanted to share...

Dear folks --

Between our usual weekend adventures, we tried toput into effect some Golden Rules:

'Love Our Neighbors As Ourselves"

Between our Friday afternoon - Labor Day - Monday night into Tuesday afternoon, we added our encouragement, assistance and yes, our monies to easing the plight of our fellow citizens. Don't just read what we did - and will do again - join us.

Arkansas has become the second largest home for the displaced folks from The Gulf Coast and the tragedies of the Hurricane Katrina. We just received 22 thousand more people bussed in to Ft. Chaffee at Ft. Smith on the western side of the state. (Over by Okla.)

We have witnessed hundreds of people living at the State Fair Grounds in Little Rock. They are sleeping rows of cots, occasionally laden with a small pile of someone's cast-off / donated apparel - a few new / fresh items and a small box of toiletries. That is it - their entire worldly possessions. They sit downcast, numb - a form of shell-shock.

We took food to the State Fair Grounds and visited with a group of Indians from Louisiana. (Now don't ask me the name of their tribe as I had to ask 4 times for it to be pronounced. The talkative gentleman who-was-telling-the-tribe's-tale, had such a strong Cajun accent, I could not understand, let alone repeat the tongue-twister name!) They told of swiftly rising waters "only Moses could have divided." The history of their people - paper records and historic keepsakes - were surely gone. The group were sitting in a circle on the Earthen lawn outside the Fair Ground's buildings, talking amongst oneanother so softly it almost seemed like an odd hum.

Another group of black folks -- with several small children scampered nearby playing a game of nighttime tag -- sat in an assortment of chairs and atop overturned buckets inside a gazebo on the Fair Grounds property. The New Orleans grown-ups -- all relatives / cousins and sisters and aunts and nephews. They would start to discuss who was missing - look at oneanother and pause while their own personal waterworks turned on and a flood would roll down their faces. They could hardly speak of the-unknown-whereabouts of a Grandmother - a beloved elder named Nettie Mae. They had no idea where they were going - if they would go back when the brackish tides had been removed or if they would resettle elsewhere. Remarkably, it seemed as though the decision needed to be a 'joint family' choice as all they had left in this ole world, was each other. They did not want any distance between.

We helped box food and bottled water for hauling away in trucks. Our friend Tom - who is the Labor Relations Director for the United Way - had asked if we would be flexible this weekend in the event he needed us to drive a bob-truck or three down to the stricken area. Instead, he got so much donated from the good folks in Arkansas, they had to rely on far, far larger trucks - big 18-wheel jobs. (We are not licensed to drive these - so the Stanleys were bystanders!)

Monday afternoon we went back to the State Fair Grounds and took more food - a trip to Sam's Club -- whadda marvelous place for delicious stuff. While delivering our goodies, a truck pulled up with the backend filled with laughing and singing people. They jumped out, each having held in their laps a cardboard box layered with wax-paper and warm fried catfish steaks ready-to-eat were offered to one and all.

Summer in Arkansas -- Wonderful Times Sharing with Friends -- Life is Good.

I am soooooooooooooo impressed with the people of our area.

This morn, Hubby had to be in Court in Pine Bluff. This is - 30 mi Southeast of Little Rock - one of the more economically depressed communities in the state; however, it is not as bad as the Delta in the Southeastern region of Arkansas - but Pine Bluff has evolved into a durge of woe.

While on our way down, Governor Mike Huckabee was on the radio doing a special Emergency Talk Show. He recounted the miseries he had witnessed and tried to alleviate. Calls came in from listeners offering assistance. The Governor ended the program telling of a woman he had sat beside on the steps of the old barracks at Ft. Chaffee. The gal and her Momma had come in on a bus from the stormy shoreland. That morning - at 7A.M., her Momma had died; the woman had no money, no way to contact anyone and was engulfed in sobs and sorrow.

As we drove along listening to the Arkansas Governor, I picked up my cell phone and called John Smith, owner of the North Little Rock Funeral Home. I explained to an assistant (John was helping with a funeral just then) the details of the radio program and this lady's plight. I asked for 'a little miracle from the angels working at the Funeral Home'.

A DONE DEAL...

The Jewish teenager Anne Frank wrote some thoughtful words in her little diary as WWII was festering around her hiding place. The young girl penned in her red plaid book:

"How wonderful it is
that nobody
need wait a single moment
before starting to improve
the world."

The Pine Bluff Convention Center has been transformed into a residence for several hundred Gulf Shores folks. Area churches have taken-in families -- individual families have taken in homeless people. Their outpouring of goodwill will surely cause a 'golden glow' on this part of Central Arkansas when outerspace pictures are taken and beamed back to Earth! The Governor (a former Baptist minister) has been there and walked, talked, provided needs and prayed amongst the downtrodden.

I pulled up to visit with a Fireman - who was manning the doors, providing security and to assist in collections. He advised they needed Baby Formula, underwear (in all sizes and for all people) and towels. The man said:

"We have plenty of clothing. Everyone is allowed to take 6 changes of clothes from the stockpiles. We just don't have enough new underwear. The towels help all to be able to bathe, stay clean and refreshed."

While pulling away from the Convention Center, I spotted in the roadway a businessperson's day-date book...pages flipping in the breeze. Someone had probably laid it on their car to write, forgotten it and the book had dropped as they motored on their way. I flipped on my flashers - jumped out and grabbed the flying pages and the book. It belonged to a man named Robert from Louisiana. He had just made a $2,000. deposit at his local bank as the paperwork was inside. The book was mostly addresses and numbers plus his upcoming business meetings calendar - a highly valuable book to the owner. It was real leather and had expensive fountain pens tucked inside. I figured I was going to have to mail it back to him.

Next, a return trip to the Courthouse to pick up Hubby -- the 'bread winner' who was -- after some sweet-talk'n -- going to hopefully cover-the-bill.

I also suggested he could turn in the Walmart receipt for a tax write-off.

(MEN -- this is how their minds work -- ha!)

This is also a powerful incentive FOR EVERYONE to make donations...

We drove to the Pine Bluff WALMART
and bought almost every package of underwear they had.
We had some many briefs - shorts - undies and pants,
we looked like NUDIST COLONY REFORMERS...hahahaaaaaaaa!

As an experienced expert at spending Hubby's bucks, this tour 'd force style of buying is called:

'POWER SHOPPING'.

For those of you who are untutored regarding this technique, it is when you stand and point to a bargain and start yelp'n:

"I want 6 of those, 9 of those; I"ll take 3 of these and 14 of that."
Then you smile at your Hubby
who is possibly sweating
or lean'n next to a nearby wall
or occasionally prone on the floor beside you
allllllllllllllllll the while staring inside his hollow billfold.

(Hubby - who does NOT enjoy accompanying me on many of these excursions -
has confided the mysterious experience of:

'Cartoon Shopping Syndrome'.

This is when he peels back the edges of his wallet
and can literally see the dollar bills flutter out with wings
like in-the-Warner-Brothers-cartoons and float away.)

(Who would have thought a name-brand like 'FRUIT OF THE LOOM' was cheaper than some off-the-wall undies named 'INTERSTATE 40' -- huh?? Six pairs of briefs for $4.98 ain't a bad deal! Forget those 'Road Warrior' name-brand goofus undies at 3 pair for $4.00 - duh. I got this situation - along with a bunch 'o nekkid arses - COVERED! Heeeeeeehehehehee!! )

Then we got sox...mostly white sox and some black ones...
Then we did boys sox...and girls panties and socks.

(What kinda Momma is buying 'low-riding bikini style' drawers for their little girl? They're not go'n on the fanny of any liddle kiddle I'm dress'n!!!!!!!! I want full-blown, cover-yo-sef-up pants across their keesters!

This shopping style is weary business.

I didn't even try on ladies underwear....
nor did I buy any.
(There is a JOKE hidden in that last line somewhere...)

I bought every can of liquid Infant Formula that was one the shelf (I'm buy'n the WALMART name-brand -- much less expensive than the rest -- and what I would have purchased for myself too!). Hubby had to go up on a ladder to get the flats of canned formula down from the top of the shelf as the entire display had been almost bought out by the Pine Bluff locals and taken to the Convention Center!

As I was standing in line to check out -- I talked to ladies pushing their shopping baskets nearby or standing in line behind me.

(Ahhhh yes, the power of big-hearted women!)

I explained the Convention Center officials were begging for towels. One gal said her Sunday School Class would join in 'the towel effort'...another mentioned she would get one towel from every person representing her neighborhood / street...and a last lady said she could help too. It seems her daughter's Pine Bluff school had adopted one item per classroom -- like buying toothbrushes - as many as you could afford. One class had yet to get an assigned 'need.' I exclaimed:

'Its' towels - needed NOW - not tomorrow or next week!'
It was a done deal!

(Ahhhh -- all ya need is a talkative female and a positive attitude. A gaggle of gals can make minor miracles!)

We had 3 1/2 shopping carts full. A volunteer Walmart Department Head assisted wheel'n the stuff out to the truck.

When we wheeled the loot out across the parking lot...it was a hot, noontime sun bearing down. An elderly woman was pushing a cart with many plastic bags. She seemed lost - mumbling to herself as she passed me. I asked if she was having trouble finding her car and she admitted 'Yes'. This dear old woman - who probably should have not been out driving but to the nearby grocery and straight home - had spent (her term) 'a Widow's Mite' to buy 'lady's needs - Kotex and Tampons' and was making a drive to the Center to provide help. We located her old flivver-of-a-car and got her on the way... God Bless this dear, darling woman.

As we were putting the Walmart purchases in the back of our truckbed to haul back across town to the Convention Center, a black Lexus was slowly driving up and down the Walmart parking lot rows. It had a tag from Louisiana. A single man was driving, looking back and forth -- perhaps searching for someone or something. I took a hunch and stepped out into the line of traffic causing him to have to stop. I walked up to the window and asked:

"Is your name Robert?...(and said the last name).
He never spoke, just nodded his head with a dazed, quizzical expression.
"Did you loose something?"
"Yes -- I did..."
"Stay here -- I'll be right back."

"Is this your book and can you tell me the amount of your last bank deposit?"
He had all the answers; Then, he had his book.
"I drove up here to help. But, how'd you know to help me?"

How did I know?
I don't know;
These things just happen
'to' me
and
'for' me
and on this day,
for someone else.

My Great 'n Good Guardian Angel
works overtime
all the time.

It just occurs...like the movie line in 'SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE"
'Its' a mystery!'

(Hubby asked:
'How'd you know that?"
I always leave him a tad rattled 'n in a daze.

Poor man has a mantra after 25 yrs --
"No one ever told me it was going to be like this!"
Hahahahaaaa!!!!!!!!!!)

All the 'stuff' was in the truckbed as we pulled back within a 2 block area of the Convention Center. An old black man was walking down the street with two large bags of items. I rolled down the window and asked if he needed a lift.

(He was too old to be afraid of;
it was too hot for him to be out walking.
The gentleman was carrying waaaaaay to heavy a pair of burdens
for him to have to wag any distance.
OTHERWISE,
I -Hubby too -
DON"T PICK UP STRANGERS.)

He was a storm-tossed soul from Louisiana.
He needed a lift downtown to Simmons Bank.
The man had fallen in love with the people of Pine Bluff.
He had just finished getting papers straight from the Social Security Office
and was headed to the bank to have his account transferred to Arkansas.
He promised: "Pine Bluff, Arkansas is where I plan to live out my days now."
The waters had washed away his former residence and belongings;
and, after some tears 'n fears,
he was going to start anew
with a welcoming home
amongst new friends
in Arkansas.

This will not be over next week nor next month nor a half-year from now.
Illness is going to take hold...both in body and mind...for many of the people involved -

the people in need and those witnessing 'n helping.
Reflect on our small work here...
follow us.

Make a donation to ease the way for a stranger.

A concluding quote from Anne Frank's diary,
(one of my favorite quotable authors as you can tell...)

" We all live with the objective
of being happy;
our lives are all different
and yet
the same. "

-- Audrey in Arkansas

2 comments:

Biff Loman said...

I know there are people like this everywhere, but still, reading that post really made nostalgic for the South -- because the place is crawling with them.

And they're oblivious they to how big their hearts are and how rare someone doing the things they do is. Try to point it out to them, and you'll be greeted by genuine bewilderment: They sincerely believe everyone thinks and acts on their beliefs the way they do, and suggestions that there are people who don't act graciously toward others in need confound them.

These people are the foundation of the Loveable South. It's nice to know they're still out there, and doing fine.

Billy Budd said...

Part of the problem or part of the solution.....take your pick. Think of how much farther down the recovery road we would be if there was less hot air and more action from the hate GWB crowd.