South Sean: Helpers

By Sean Dietrich, Sean of the South

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An elderly woman who will remain anonymous arrived in Uvalde, Texas early this morning driving a 2009 Ford with high mileage and bad tires. She had a back seat full of flowers. She has come a long way.

Sean Dietrich (Photo courtesy of seandietrich.com)

The woman placed flowers on the recently erected crosses in memory of the 21 killed in the Robb Elementary shooting. She came all the way from Pittsburgh to be here.

“It was about 1,530 miles,” she wrote to me.

When I asked her why she had traveled so far, she replied, “Because I want to help.

In the meantime, other helpers have invaded Uvalde. Some of the first came in the form of dogs. It’s true. Canines.

Lutheran Church charities sent comfort dogs to Uvalde, to help those experiencing trauma. The animals are trained to provide comfort in a crisis and have been present in the aftermath of numerous mass shootings.

Like Sandy Hook in 2012. A dog named Howe was at a community center just days after the Sandy Hook shooting. Immediately a small boy curled up next to Howe and whispered in the dog’s ear. People standing nearby were crying when they saw this. They said it was the first time in four days that the boy had spoken.

And he talked to a dog.

Eight of the LCC’s golden retrievers were sent to Uvalde County. They are Cubby and Devorah, Miriam, Abner, Elijah, Gabriel, Joy and Triton.

While the dogs were busy providing support, a woman I’ll call Angie, a nurse, former paramedic, and military, emailed me:

“Yesterday I wanted to drive to Uvalde and do something, but there really isn’t a job for a woman with arthritis like me. So I ordered a bunch of pizzas and had them delivered to the police department in Uvalde. I hope the first responders at least nibbled on something.

At the same time, across town, the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center set up a blood drive in Uvalde. The Texans came out of the wallpaper to donate.

The lines in front of the donation centers lasted for hours. On an average day, the blood center does not collect enough blood to say thanks. As of yesterday morning, 1,500 people across Texas had donated blood.

A man drove three hours from Austin. Another older couple drove from Oklahoma City. A man named Pete traveled 65 miles to donate blood to Uvalde. Pete’s granddaughter survived the school shooting.

“It’s the least we can do,” Pete said. “Do someone a little favor.”

Meanwhile, Billy Graham’s Rapid Response Team deployed aides who were on the scene two hours after the shooting. Chaplains were even asked to deliver obituaries to some of the families of the victims as well as to law enforcement.

“As the father of four young children, my heart is heavy…” said team principal Josh Holland. “We send out our crisis-trained chaplains to comfort people, to listen and cry with them, and to share God’s love…”

There are hundreds of other helpers flooding the city like a real tidal wave. Kroger donated $300,000 for the food. San Antonio’s HEB grocery chain is donating $500,000 to the community, administering meals and supplies.

Average Joes and Josephines show up with barbecue trailers and coolers, giving food to anyone who needs it.

Crowds of ordinary people across the country are calling restaurants in Uvalde and offering to pay for meals for families of victims and first responders.

Says Rosemary Flores, owner of Sunrise Restaurant, “People are calling from Idaho, Ohio, Wisconsin and even Canada. I don’t know how they got my number, but it’s okay.

Something else. Community funeral homes offer to rest victims free of charge. Hillcrest Funeral Home and Rushing-Estes-Knowles Mortuary are waiving funeral expenses.

The average American funeral costs around $8,000. For small family funeral homes, this is a big deal. Their donations total approximately $170,000 in combined funeral costs.

Additionally, this offer comes amid a crisis of funeral supply issues in Uvalde. It’s a small town, funeral homes don’t have inventory for mass burials. In an average year, local funeral homes handle maybe six or seven funerals for children. No one was prepared for this.

Morgues from other communities have therefore offered to help.

“We’ve had calls from other funeral homes offering to help,” said Monica Saiz-Martinez, who works for Hillcrest. “The love and support from everywhere is healing and helpful in so many ways right now. It’s just amazing.

There are more stories like these. Too many to tell. So I’m going to end here by telling you about a guy named Fred McFeely Rogers. A man who once said this:

“My mother always said, ‘Seek the helpers.’ There will always be helpers on the sidelines. That’s why I think if news programs could make a conscious effort to show rescue teams, doctors or whoever arrives in a place where there is tragedy, make sure they include that. Because if you’re looking for help, you’ll know there’s hope.

And now I desperately need to believe it.

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