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Seeds of something fine

With a little help from my friends

Staff writer

Help is something that has always been tricky for me. On the one hand I am a firm believer we were never meant to do it all on our own, that we are creatures meant to live in community. On the other hand I am a pretty capable person and often don’t think to ask for help when I am in need — my natural inclination is to just try harder.

I think, also, it’s hard for me to invite people into the messy places in my life, which is probably where I need them most.

But some things are absolutely not surmountable on one’s own and I encounter more and more of these things the older I get. Things like deep, life-changing loss and natural disaster.

It is in these cases we can’t help but rely on the folks around us to pull us up — and thank goodness we can’t.

In the time we’ve spent in Marion my husband and I have encountered more than our fair share of tough times when, looking back, we wish we’d thought to ask for help. It’s not that we don’t need it or don’t want it; it quite simply doesn’t occur to us to ask. We know we need to work on this.

Admitting that has been tough for me, and I wouldn’t have come to that realization without the help we received following recent storms from neighbors who all too often have heard us say, “No thanks, we’re doing fine,” when, really, we weren’t.

My daughter, Lyla, spent a week in Kansas City with my parents a couple of weeks ago. My husband and I were supposed to retrieve her the afternoon of June 17 and stay to celebrate Father’s Day with my family before returning to Marion. Schedules changed and we ended up needing to stay in town through Friday evening.

I haven’t been away from Lyla that long since she was born and by Friday evening I was on edge. Every nerve in my body was raw and achey with the need to hold her. But Mother Nature had a different plan.

Mother Nature, in all her maternal wisdom, decided I needed a lesson instead.

I had sent Lyla away during a particularly difficult week around here because I didn’t want her to see her parents under so much stress. I didn’t ask anybody in Marion about a play-date or even a half-day of childcare so we could get some things done; I just did it the hard way and sent her away.

Then Mother Nature had her say and a power line and all its accoutrements were ripped from our house Friday night. We woke up Saturday NOT to a car already packed and ready to zip off to Kansas City at first light, but to a town full of downed limbs and trees, no lights, no phone, and a fridge and freezer full of rapidly spoiling food.

And the worst part — no way to make coffee!

I went out into my driveway with a camera to record the awesome sight and before I could think how I was going to get my brain started a neighbor brought us a huge thermos of coffee. No questions asked.

When he delivered it he heard me ask Michael about the creamer going bad and, again, before I could politely object too forcefully, everything in our deep freeze was being carted two houses down to his deep freeze.

As I tearfully called around town, trying to figure out when we might have power, I saw a family going house to house dragging limbs to the curbs and clearing debris — even the kiddos were helping out!

Then I realized they were in MY yard! “Of all things, we’ll be fine,” I thought, “they should help somebody who really needs it.” In fact I think I said this as I was sobbing (the crazy-to-see-my-kid situation had gotten a bit worse).

Somewhere in all the hubbub a neighbor with a chainsaw was going around, cutting what he could of large limbs that were dangling or endangering people. Nobody asked, he just did it. Know how I know? He did it for us. I don’t even know his name.

I just barely caught a glimpse of him in our front yard before he was off to the next house and I wish I’d gotten the chance to thank him. I also wished, in part, that Lyla had been there to see it. That I could have pointed to these people coming to our aid, refusing to take no for an answer and said “This, honey, is a community.”

I’m smart enough to know we can’t hide all our stress from her and (I hope) wise enough to know we shouldn’t. I want her to know being in need is just as much a part of being human as all the other bits like joy and happiness and wonder.

When we got back from Kansas City mid-week, one of those same neighbors spent an entire day helping Michael cut apart and dispose of the tree in our yard with a chainsaw. I took Lyla out to see the rings in the tree and watch Daddy and Mr. Adam (Johnson) use the tool.

I also took a major (for me) step and invited him into my house for lunch where we were living out of suitcases among stacks of paper with a handful of condiments in the fridge. He joined us for pancakes, Lyla’s favorite. And I just about cried when he left for all the love I felt had found its way into my home, without me asking, through the holes that a natural disaster made.

Last modified June 30, 2011

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