By Alicia Walker, SBA Relationship Manager, Core Bank
As a parent, I’m often humbled by the lessons in selflessness that I learn from my son. Here is one such lesson that I was grateful to learn.
After Hurricane Michael, I flew to Panama City Beach, Florida as soon as I could safely get into the area. I’d spoken with my son and daughter-in-law while they were evaluating their home, when they reached a safe place in Jacksonville. As well as after the hurricane when they were accessing the damage to their community and home. I knew that my son, an adult and active duty Airman stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base, which was also destroyed by the hurricane, was more than capable. I knew he would tell me he had things handled. But I needed to look into his eyes to see what he needed from me, from his mom.
Driving from the airport to their house, I was anxious to see the damage and what I could do to help. As we arrived at my son’s house, I could see that he hadn’t started doing anything to repair his property. I asked him why… and wondered what he’d been doing. He replied in the most gentle and sincere way, “I’m doing what you taught me: to not withhold good when it is in my power to do so. Repairing lives is more critical than repairing property, mom.” My son is amazing. As my eyes welled up with tears, proud of the man he’d become, I asked what I could do.
My son and daughter-in-law had been pooling together what finances they could and driving four hours every day to deliver food, water and other supplies to a small inner city community where relief agencies had not yet made it. I made some calls back home to friends, family and business partners who were more than happy to send financial aid so we could buy a substantial amount of supplies. Boy did my tribe come through!
As we approached the small community near Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, I sat silently in shock as I viewed the miles of devastation left after the storm. Homes were split in half by fallen trees. The local middle school metal roof had been peeled off like a tin can lid. Steel anchored signs were plucked from the ground like flowers. Massive trees were bent over as if a giant had walked through the area. But, the most heart wrenching sight was the hollow and distressed look on the faces of people who had lost everything. If you’ve never been on the ground in an area after a natural disaster… well, I can’t even put in words how emotional it is. The power of nature can make you feel insignificant.
As my kids started unloading the supplies, preparing plates of food, and assisting where needed, I just stood there for a minute. I watched as people searched through donated clothes that had been left in piles on the ground. I watched as little children joined in the search, as if they knew the situation was dire. I think I was standing there so long, just overwhelmed seeing the need, that people started to come up to me and asked if I needed help.
Eventually, I felt my son’s hand on my shoulder as he said, “Just be thankful and start giving. It helps.” And, so I did. I considered how thankful I was that my kids were okay. I thought about how blessed I was to be able to help others. And, I realized that you really cannot be thankful unless you give. Giving is the result of true, sincere thankfulness. That’s my hope for each of us this Thanksgiving holiday season. That we take a moment to appreciate our good fortune, relationships with friends and family, and yes, even good weather.