It almost seemed too incredible, too tragic to be real. As we sat with Jake and Sue while they told their story through their tears, we could only try to imagine what it would be like to be in their shoes. It started with a sick dog, so sick that the vet couldn't save him. Then the kids became ill, all three of them with breathing problems and a rash. Now, the medical and vet bills were piling up and so was the worry. When the dark force that was taking over their home was revealed, a hidden mold problem that had turned toxic, this young family had no choice but to move immediately. But all the time off he needed to take to handle the crises in his family had cost Jake his job, adding to a Job-like set of conditions that seemed nearly insurmountable.
As our team discussed this impossible set of circumstances, we wondered who among us could weather such a series of blows without needing help. This young family, one day happy and healthy, was thrown a set of curve balls that no one should have to face alone. It would take all of our team, combining our resources and reaching out to our partners, to stabilize this family and keep them from landing into a spot that would take years from which to recover. Through our combined efforts, which includes working with family and friends, we could offer help with rent, deposit, medical bills, moving costs and referrals for legal aid.
After hearing so many stories such as Jake and Sue's, and walking alongside hundreds of neighbors as they face the biggest challenges of their lives, we have come to understand something extraordinary. People are amazing. Given every reason to throw up their hands, lose hope and stop trying, these everyday heroes will not give up. They may have a moment when they get scared, they worry about the future, even shed some tears, but it doesn't last long.
Before the despair has a chance to set in, the resourceful, determined fighter comes out. The gloves go on, they stand a little straighter and then pull something from deep inside that perhaps surprises even them. A plan gets built, options are identified, favors asked and humbly received and the crisis is handled. To watch and be a small part of this evolution is a privilege.
If you ask Jake and Sue, they would never consider themselves courageous. They are only doing what they must to keep their family safe and intact. It is easy to take for granted the resilience of which we are capable, the inherent hopefulness that is implied when we keep trying, keep getting up every day ready to start anew. It goes almost unnoticed, the bravery and tenacity that is needed as a part of our normal lives. But we should notice it. Because it is perhaps the most important result of these trying times, the thing that lingers long after life is stabilized again. We realize we are bigger, we are stronger than any problem - something we would never know any other way.
Jake and Sue's family were staying in her sister's barn when we first learned of their situation. The warm summer nights made this is a viable temporary alternative. As they got ready to go to bed one night, one of their children, trying to console his parents, said "Things will get better, I know they will. But I don't mind living here at all." This optimism in the midst of difficulty is a sign of promise and proof that another hero lives amongst us.