03 Apr Big ‘ol Mixing Bowl
It was about 10 o’clock in the morning and I was bundled up because it was below freezing. The fire department was winding up their hoses and the police were starting to pull away. I walked through the rusty gate of the apartment complex, past two buildings and up a sidewalk covered with mud and debris. I walked up a squeaky staircase and held on tight so I wouldn’t slip. What normally would have been soaked after a fire had turned to icicles in the freezing weather. I got to the top of the stairs and Shomjida came out to greet me. She smiled a little and I hugged her. Then Satara stepped onto the porch. Our eyes met and we both crumbled into tears. Behind me was what was left of her apartment. No roof, completely flooded and everything else turned to ash. The fire department had thrown most of the rubble over the balcony into a heap on the ground below us and all that was left was two or three drawers full of smoky, soaked clothes and two copies of the Koran, just as damaged. No part of this was fair. I know that life’s not fair, but this goes beyond my comprehension. How can someone who has already suffered so many atrocities in her life now be going through this?
I immediately threw myself head first into the only thing I know to do when people I love are hurting: Help. It wasn’t even a question for me. When we welcome an Associate into our Vickery Trading family, they are just that – family. When they hurt, I hurt. When they are in need, I help. One of the city officials I was talking to over the next few days said to me, “these women are clearly more than employees to you.” She was right. They are.
But it was evident over the next few hours and days that I’m not the only one who sees our refugee friends like this. There was an ARMY of people who jumped in full force to help, serve, feed, clothe, move, clean, care, buy, replace, fix. It wasn’t ever a question for anyone involved. We all had other jobs and places to be and meetings and phone calls and families. But pushed aside almost everything and did what needed to be done. What was right to do. What we would want done for us if we were the woman freezing and crying on her neighbors’ porch after all of her belongings had been reduced to ash.
You’ve probably heard before that Vickery is a unique neighborhood. It’s rightfully earned the title the United Nations of Dallas. It’s a hot mix of crazy cool diversity like most people have never experienced. You know what that means? There’s a big variety of people and organizations who serve in the neighborhood as well. We know each other, attend community meetings together and reach out when we need to, but for the most part we stay in our own lane. But when 21 families get struck with disaster and everyone has a connection to at least one of them, you get thrown in a big ‘ol mixing bowl of “WHAT IN THE WORLD ARE WE GONNA DO?” And let me tell you – it was the coolest thing to watch. We could have stayed in our lanes and kept working parallel to one another. But that was never gonna tackle this problem. It was too big. There was too much need and too many people without resources. We all put our heads together – starting that very afternoon – and worked out a massive effort to help these families. There was no existing system in place for this. We created it on the spot. Jewish, Muslim, Christian, humanitarian, first responder, educator, community volunteer. All of us. Together.
The online chatter about the fire has died down, but the work is ongoing. And so is the partnership. We’re meeting again next week to formalize a system for crisis response in Vickery so that we’ll be prepared next time something like this happens. It’s been a beautiful picture of the human response to hurting and we are so privileged to be a part. Know that if you supported the fire relief effort or any of the organizations involved at any point in the past, you’re building into a much bigger picture of service and empowerment for our refugee neighbors in Dallas. On behalf of all of us – Thank You!!!