We may not really recognize the power of a simple act of kindness ... until in a moment of need, we are the recipient. Read Jane Jarrell's thankful discovery.
Soul Food: An Unexpected Taste of Kindness
By Jane Jarrell
It was a regular Wednesday monthly staff meeting at the beautiful boutique, Bradbury Lane, where I work part time. An incredible group of talented and generous women work together to help people in the community find and purchase great gifts. I love working with these women. It is like the television show Cheers, sans the bar. People come in to visit, shop, and visit some more. When walking in the staff room I noticed a table full of uniquely wrapped gift bags behind a lovely set up of flowers, food and drinks. Odd, I thought as that is not the norm for our monthly meetings. After our prayer time as the meeting started, my boss, Sherry Peters said, "We need to do our business quickly as we have a party to enjoy."
A month earlier on a peaceful, muggy summer night our family was suddenly thrust into a life-altering nightmare. We were without power for days after a bad storm, and so we were fast asleep in a hotel to take advantage of the air-conditioning. (Texas in June = hot and muggy.) About 2:30 a.m. on June 13th our phones began to buzz over and over again. It was our neighbors - our home was up in flames. My husband, Mark, jumped up and went to the house to check things out. We were confused, because we had no power and so we thought there was no way for a fire to start. Luke and I waited at the hotel to hear Mark's report. Soon he called me and said I needed to come to the house with our son. As Luke and I drove into the neighborhood, the police had the main street leading to our cul-de-sac blocked off. I rolled down my window and the officer asked if I was Jane. She let me drive passed the barricade and toward all the flashing lights, closer to the house, where we saw seven emergency vehicles - from fire trucks to ambulances. It was all for us. For our home.
Shock. Disbelief. Sadness.
Realizing our new normal, we moved forward but not without the help of gracious friends and family. We lost so much. Only part of the house burned but what didn't burn suffered major smoke and water damage. Basically, according to insurance it was a total loss.
When bad things happen, the friends who run toward you during the disaster are those friends who love you well. We truly have been loved well.
For us it was and still is the simplest of things. The morning after the fire, my boss from Bradbury Lane showed up where we were sitting in the front yard with a large diet coke from Sonic. I LOVE diet coke and Sonic seems to have the best ones. It mattered.
Our across-the-street friend made hot cocoa in the middle of the night for Luke. Our backdoor neighbor brought over a cinnamon coffee cake. It was breakfast for the next few days. I could go on and on. Calls, food, invitation for meals, gift cards to restaurants. It ALL mattered.
Sometimes the kindness went so over-and-above that it was surprising. At the store after our regular Wednesday staff meeting came to a close, I was suddenly surrounded by eighteen packages to open. The unexpected party was for me! It was a surprise wrapped in love, thoughtfulness and genuine care.
As I opened the first bag, my heart was happy and excited. It was a beautiful cookbook. As was the second and the third. A well-thought-out theme that uniquely blessed me! I could see my friend Dixie's fingerprints all over this. It was a cookbook shower. I. Love. Cookbooks. Ours were ruined.
For twenty-five years my work was with The Dallas Morning News food section, a stylist, writer and recipe developer. It was my job to love cookbooks. The heart of the home is where the food is, and the food comes from the suggestions of the cookbooks. These gifts became more than books with fancy food shots, they became food for our souls.
While in the midst of my own personal fire, the only way I have been able to accept so many acts of kindness is knowing it would be my desire to run into the hurt of others even if I get messy, too. Receiving these acts of kindness has increased my awareness of how to come alongside others and provide food for their souls as well. The other day I asked a friend what helped her family the most when they were going through a cancer diagnosis with a young child; she said, "Anything and everything."
Jane Jarrell has a career spanning many aspects of communications - food stylist, writer, speaker and adjunct professor. She has worked at Southern Living Magazine and The Dallas Morning News. Her new blog - Restoration Hardway - chronicles the journey after their home fire. She and her family live in the Dallas area.