I am so sick of getting up every morning and hearing about more killing. It scares me when I think about how mean this world has become, just downright mean. It is now acceptable to say anything that flies through your mind, no matter how hurtful or awful it might be. People have become famous by tweeting random outrageous things, and then they are honored as someone to look up to. Our society has truly lost its way, and the “turnaround” I have been hoping for is yet to come.
But here in West Virginia, you see love and kindness in action every day. The floods have destroyed so many things, but they have also opened up a floodgate of compassion and true unselfish love for one another. My son Tyler has been really impacted by the plight of the homeless and those who have been hit so hard, and he has been taking his dump trailer to Clendenin and Clay to fill it up and help with the cleanup. I was privileged to get to go with him one day last week, and it was a blessing. We went to Clendenin first and had arrangements to work on a certain street, but there were enough people working there already, so they sent us down to Clay to an area that had been hard hit and had no volunteers there yet. It took us an hour or more just to get there, and when we got to the hollow we had been directed to, no one was home.
We went on down the street to a church that was cleaning out, and we helped there tearing up their floor, walls, insulation, almost gutting the entire sanctuary. We got word that the families down the street were coming home, so we began to gather up to go there. A white van comes down the street, and a man asks, “Are you guys hungry? Have you had lunch?” We hadn’t really had lunch, just bars and scraps of things that we had in our vehicles, so we eagerly accepted his offer of lunch. He pulls in, grabs a table from within the van, sets up a huge pot of brown beans, platters of cornbread, bags with cookies and brownies. We begin to talk, and he says he is from Spencer. I say, “Well, you may know my husband.” When I tell him Tom’s name, he says, “I’m Jeff Fetty.” I know Jeff Fetty, have been to his home, and I just hadn’t even looked at him!
He has his son Jacob with him and Megan Gainer, another sculptor from Spencer. They had spent the entire day prior cooking all this food and just felt compelled to go into the hills and hollows and see who needed to eat. He was embarrassed when I started telling everything about what a phenomenal artist he is and where all of his metal works are located. He hadn’t done this for publicity or for “credit.” He had done it out of the goodness of his heart, that “Here but for the grace of God go I.”
We end up down the street with this family who had not had their home touched in the week since the flood. When we walked in, the floors were hooved up horribly and the whole home was a disaster. Water had come clear up to the top of their ceilings. We began the tearout, and it took eight dump trailer loads to clean their home out. I’m talking furniture way better than mine (she had a $5,000 couch that she still owed $400 on). They had flat screen TVs in every room, closets stuffed to the gills with beautiful and nice things. It almost made you physically ill to see all the things that were going to have to be destroyed. The wife seemed just in shock – almost catatonic. We would bring things to her we thought were salvageable, and she would just shake her head and say, “No, pitch it.” She was a self-described “hoarder,” but here were all these strangers pilfering in her underwear drawers and in her private things, and she didn’t want to save one thing.
The Vannest in me watched all these salvageable clothes (with good hangers, I might say) getting thrown into a trailer with muddy, greasy items, and I just wanted to grab some things out, take them home, wash them and bring them back. They had nowhere to store anything they kept, they had no washer and dryer to clean them in, no dishwasher to try to sanitize things…..
There was a great group from Jackson County that went with us that day, bringing more dump trailers, including David Borgeouis, who is undergoing chemo treatments. Tim Casto from Kenna brought his dump trailer as well as some workers. And everyone worked nonstop, hard as they could, as the task was enormous, and there were 500 more families just like these, still waiting in line. And you won’t believe what happened after that – on the 4th of July, Tyler ran to Speedway to trade out a tank for the grill, and he sees these people in line in front of him and he thinks he recognizes them as that family from up the hollow in Clay. He introduces himself again, helps them remember who he was, and one of them says, “Did you say Tyler Markham? Are you Trademark Investments?” He says, “Yes, I am.” They say, “Well, our cousin is buying a house from you right now!” Talk about a small world….
And I tell you this story to brag on the people of West Virginia, their spirit, their caring nature, their willingness to step up and help – it is phenomenal to watch, and it erases all those bad feelings of “when will the violence stop?” Because in West Virginia these past few weeks, all the goodness of God has been evident everywhere you look – and the lesson these floods bring (as with any catastrophe) is that things don’t matter one bit – we all have them, and we enjoy sitting on a couch or a chair we have saved to purchase – but in the end, things get you nowhere and bring you no happiness – it is lives that matter, relationships with others, family and friends. When we are stripped down to the clothes on our back (which we will be when we exit this world), all that matters is who we are with our Creator, where our soul is headed, and what we have done with all the blessings He has given us! I would encourage you to go work in these areas if you possibly can – it will open your eyes to what is truly worth hanging on to!
My name is Teresa Evans. I am a wife to Tom, a retired Circuit Judge, and I am a court reporter by trade, a mother by God's grace and a lover of Jesus Christ. I've grown up in a family blessed with many miracles, and have received multiple miracles myself.