My brother’s house burned down last Sunday. He and his wife and kids got out safely, but the place was a total loss. Their insurance company is saying all the right things, in terms of rebuilding and replacing everything. I mean, inasmuch as you can replace things. A lot of stuff has sentimental value. I can’t imagine that shock of seeing everything go up in flames. On Sunday morning, in the driveway of his home, I spoke with Boaz and he said, “You know how you wonder what you would save if your house was burning down’? Well, it turns out you make sure the kids safe and leave everything else.”
Their community — their congregation, the school where my brother and his wife teach, their neighbors — has mustered an incredible show of support. Here at my office in New Jersey, a thousand miles away (they live in St. Louis), I sent a company-wide e-mail on Monday to ask for donations of clothing and such, to help out the kids (they’re 12, 9, and 11 months). I was out sick Tuesday, but when I got in Wednesday, I discovered EIGHT BAGS of things for the girls, along with a stack of gift cards for Target and the like.
(Self-absorbed aside: I hate being involved in these sort of momentous conversations with people, because I feel like I’m half-assing it when I tell the same story for the 15th time. Or I think that other co-workers might happen to hear me re-telling it and uncover the tricks I employ for faking human emotion when I talk. Also, I might cry when I think about my nieces having to escape from the house without even getting their socks and shoes on, on a cold Sunday morning.
But it’s wonderful that so many people who’ve never even met my brother or his family turned out to help support them during this time. I’m really touched by it, especially because I don’t come from an extended family and have to rely on friends and human kindness in a time of need. I’m sure I’ll say this to them in a way that sounds completely insincere and glib.)
Amy & I are heading out for a visit next week. We’d booked the trip in December, so it’s not like we’re dropping everything to race out there. (Although I think I would have done that, depending on how bad the airlines would gouge us for tickets.) We’ll try to raise the kids’ spirits a little, take ‘em shopping, show ‘em some love, and otherwise try to help the family any way we can.
I’ll write or podcast more about this later. For now, I just advise you to make sure you have couple of fire-escape routes, keep off-site backups of all your important computer files, and maybe put together an emergency pack of important stuff that you can quickly grab on the way out.
For my part, I’m trying to figure out the logistics of getting two panicked 80-lb. greyhounds out of a second floor balcony, if we’re ever caught in that predicament.
To end on a cheerier note, here’s a pic of the greys in question, cuting it up: