“Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, it’s at the end of your arm, as you get older, remember you have another hand: The first is to help yourself, the second is to help others.”
We can be stubborn. I can be stubborn. Some may see it as a negative, I usually see it as a glowing personality trait… in this case the “some” would be right.
We left Panama City Beach two days before Hurricane Michael hit. We thought “Meh, another hurricane, no big deal”. We’ve seen a lot of them come through, and usually they are nothing more than a few days off work so we continued our road trip. We drove north to Tennessee to restock the van, then headed west.
This is where the stubbornness comes in. We knew it was wrong, I was sick as a dog as soon as we left PCB. We should have stayed in TN until I felt better. I had a knot in my stomach as soon as we headed west. I could see on my wife’s face she didn’t want to go. But, stubbornly, selfishly we kept going. Two days we drove west, then we started getting reports of the damage and finally I gave in to that knot and turned the van around. I knew as soon as it was pointed east I was going the right direction. We went home, repacked, and headed south.
I can not think of another way to put it, devastating. Heartbreaking. I’ve never seen damage this severe, this widespread. It’s overwhelming. You can see it on the peoples faces. For so many people down here, they have lost everything.
We have seen the best and worst of people since we have been here. I won’t waste words on the worst. But the best, man, it brings tears to my eyes. Our first day we were cutting trees off the top of houses, placing tarps. We were hungry, tired, hot, sweaty, dehydrated but invigorated. About 1pm we started to get into our van and figure what we still had for food and a couple pulled up. They had made beef stew in a few big pots and got some bread. They were driving around feeding people, for nothing. No reason other than the goodness of their hearts.
Yesterday we were driving through Lynnhaven (north of Panama City) trying to find some place open to buy some groceries. We saw a little stand giving away water so we stopped. This couple had driven down from St. Louis on Friday after work. They bought hundreds of cases of water, gas, and goodwill clothes. They drove all night, spent the weekend giving everything away, and were heading back today. For no reason at all. They just did it. The funny thing is they didn’t even realize the magnitude of what they had done. The man was so humble, and just said “We just had to”.
From the people serving food, to the crews helping with debris removal, to the quick and abundant response of FEMA… Forget the news lately, people are good. So many people are helping down here just out of the goodness of their hearts.
We will be staying awhile, who knows how long, as long as it takes I guess. The road trip may be delayed, and the blog posts probably postponed a bit, but it’s an adventure right? We don’t pick the path.