Thursday, January 31, 2013

You know you're in a small town... charity edition...

On Sunday, we learned in church that a rural resident was killed in a car crash on the back roads. He was early 40s and left young children and a wife who is physically handicapped. An impromptu second collection was taken in church for the family.

On Wednesday, I went in the grocery store up-town to find a collection jar there as well for the family. Now, of course this sort of thing happens in a large city, but typically it is far removed from you. You likely don't know the family described on the collection jar or in church.

But my husband has known this man all his life, and this man's kids go to my child's school.

Another local man died a few months back. He had mental challenges, could not drive, had no family living with him but rode his bike everywhere, 30 miles or more in one day. They called him the "Peanut Butter Man" as he was trying to eat enough peanut butter to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records. He dined with our pastor's family once a week, my husband and his father picked him up and drove him home one night when they saw him biking on the side of the road.

This man was cared for in this small town and when he died, due to complications from a head injury, local residents donated peanut butter to area food banks in his honor and our pastor championed this man's faith during that Sunday's service.

When a fire swept through the drought-parched hay fields west of town and consumed a local woman's home, several agencies in town took up a collection for her including my own women's fellowship. And several others helped fund a local girl's 11-month world mission. Before she left on her mission, her family had a come-and-go reception to which my son was able to go with his babysitter.

In a small town, you can see and feel the effects of things like this. People don't get 'lost' here.

But the one that always touched me the most was what happened with a little friend and class-mate of Brady's. This child was recently taken out of his home and put into foster care, which made Brady very sad since he is no longer in Brady's class. But this particular incident was last winter. It was a frigid night, around 25 degrees out.

At about 9 p.m., I saw on Facebook that this little boy was missing. His parents hadn't seen him since much earlier in the day before the sun had set. Immediately, half the town was mobilized to go looking for him, including my husband. Cars and trucks drove up and down the streets, people knocked on doors. They searched under bridges, in fields, down dirt roads, in ditches, everywhere.

As it turned out, the boy had gone to a neighbor's house and had stayed there watching movies for hours.

I had never experienced anything like that, where an entire town stopped what it was doing and looked for a missing 6 year old. Everyone in town knew this kid and had tried to help him in one way or another. He sometimes sat by us at church by himself. Brady and I pray for him still, and I hope his life is going well.

But I will never forget  how he brought out the best in our town, the deep human need to protect the young.

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