This young couple happened to be Joey and I. What a night that was! We lost our house and everything in it, except for a few things that we managed to grab. At the end of that awful night, all we were left with was a big pile of worthless ashes, but in the days that followed, the people in our town and our family members would give us treasures more precious than gold.
The giving of treasure started the very night of the fire. On that particular night, the gravel road was iced over, and the fire trucks could barely make it to our house. One of the emergency vehicles even slid off in the ditch. Those firefighters braved the flames in the freezing weather. They worked through most of the ice cold night fighting the fire. By the time they were done, their face masks and gear were literally frozen on with sheets of ice. I remember the fire chief coming in, absolutely exhausted, and telling us how sorry he was that they couldn't save our house. One of our treasures that night was realizing what amazing, unselfish, and dedicated people that our local volunteer firefighters are.
While the firefighters were battling the flames, I did what anyone who was scared and worried would do: I called Mom and Dad. Even though the roads were icy and dangerous that night, my parents were determined to get to our house. They started out right away and, after slipping and sliding on the highway, finally made it over to comfort their only daughter. I was greatly comforted by them, but very concerned that they had taken such a risk to come. When I told them this, they looked at me like I was crazy and said, "You needed us." They were right. Joey's parents happened to live right next door to us, and were also a great comfort. Having the comfort and support of our parents that night (and always) was a treasure worth more than the greatest riches.
We spent the rest of that black, smoky night with Joey's parents. The next morning, another treasure was waiting. It was brought by a close neighbor. This time, the treasure was the gift of generosity. Our neighbor knocked on the door early that morning, gave Joey and I big hug, and with tears in his eyes, he handed us the keys to his house.
Yes, that's right, his house. Needless to say, we were overwhelmed. He told us that he was heading out of town for his work, and we were welcome to stay in his home for as long as we needed to. We gratefully accepted. Not only did this amazing man open his home to us, he also refused to allow us to pay the monthly bills.
That day, and the days that followed, were absolutely filled with people that deeply touched our lives and hearts in a million different ways. Many neighbors stopped by to see if they could do anything to help, and to give us a handshake or a hug. There were so many friends and family members that gave us unspeakable riches in the forms of kindness, unselfishness, generosity, and love.
Here are just a few examples of the amazing folks that we are blessed to call family and friends. One man drove his loader over five miles to help us clear away the rubble after the fire. The local schoolteachers got together and made a "teacher hope chest" filled with things like stickers, books, and lessons for my future classroom since all the things I had collected had burnt. The morning after the fire, Joey's aunt went to the store and showed up with bags filled with basic items like deodorant, underwear, and fresh clothes. A few days later, she and another aunt went on a small shopping spree and surprised us with several new outfits each. A close friend sent us each a brand new Bible. Countless people sent money, clothing, or household items. Even folks that we suspected really didn't have much to spare, sent us things. It tore at our heartstrings to receive lovingly cared for blankets and household items. Each one of these things found a special place in our new home.
As I write this story, tears fill my eyes, and my heart once again overflows at the memory of the goodness of friends and family.
In the year that followed, Joey and I lived at our neighbor's house, with Joey's parents, and at a house my parents had in another town. Life continued on, but it was much different than before. Every night after work, and every weekend, Joey and his Dad worked on building our new home.
Joey's Dad is a master carpenter and his work is unbelievable. He can build and design anything from a dollhouse to a mansion. He spent hours designing and building our home. Carpentry is a skill that runs in Joey's family. His uncles hung and finished the drywall for the entire house. The wiring for our home was done by an electrician, who happens to be Joey's grandpa. When the house was completely finished, my Mom made custom curtains for our entire home. Not only did our family members do all this, they did it for free. Because of our families, our house is more than just a house. It is a labor of love, built by their own hands. What a treasure!
Having our house and everything we own turn into a pile of ashes is something that I hope we never have to go through again. Just in case you're wondering, the cause of the fire was never found. Our best guess is that it was something that went wrong with the wood burning furnace. Even though we may never know what went wrong with the furnace that caused the fire that night, one thing we do know is this: we are blessed to live in a place where treasures abound!
Joey working on rebuilding after the fire. He is laying rebar for the foundation.