In the aftermath of Hurricane Charley, a team from my Rotary Club, called the Rotary Rotary Foundation Fryers, went to Arcadia, FL where we cooked and served more than 1,000 hot meals to those who had been without electrical power for over a week. While there, I learned from the local Rotary Club president, Susan Rachles, that the University of Florida Agriculture Office in Arcadia had a problem. A forklift was needed to unload the pallets of animal feed, drinking water and other supplies that were being trucked in to assist the residents and animals in the hard hit Arcadia area. Susan told me that all the forklifts in the area were in use and there were none available to hire. So, I called around and found one in Ocala, just south of my home in Gainesville. I then hitched my equipment trailer onto my motorhome and headed out to Ocala to load the forklift onto the trailer and drive it all to Arcadia.
When I pulled up to the UF Ag office, my arrival with the forklift was a welcomed sight as there was a trailer of supplies ready to be unloaded. So, I put the fork lift and myself to work.
After a number of days, electrical power was restored to the area and there wasn’t the need for the fork lift anymore. As I loaded the forklift back onto my trailer, one of the boards on the trailer floor broke with a crash! The big tire of the forklift was now below the floor of the trailer and was stuck, making transporting it impossible. It needed to be lifted up and a new board placed and secured in the spot of the old broken board. That meant I needed a wrecker with a lift boom. I went inside to inform the Ag staff of my situation and they found the number for a nearby wrecker service. I called the wrecker service said they could come right out and informed me that it would cost me $200. Not having any other choice, I said, “Come and do it.” At this point, I was a bit frustrated. I was quite tired and anxious to get on the road so I could return the forklift to the rental company as well as to get home. Knowing this was my last day in Arcadia, I had began dreaming of a long hot shower, laying my head on my own pillow and getting a good night’s sleep in my comfortable bed!
A few minutes later, the wrecker showed up and was able to raise the forklift. I then installed a thick piece of plywood over the broken floor area and secured it to the trailer. Upon completing my task, I went to wash my hands so I could pay the wrecker service. While I was gone, the owner of the wrecker service was approached by an Ag employee who told him what I had been doing over the past few days. The owner of the wrecker came over to me and said, “I just heard what you have been doing down here over the last week, free of any charges, so I’m not going to charge you a dime for my services. I want to thank you on behalf of the people here.” I had been so frustrated by the whole thing that his kindness really touch my heart. What a great gesture for sure! I, in a most thankful mood, was now ready to embark on my 200 mile journey home.
As I was heading down the country roads some 15 miles away from Arcadia, I had my second problem of the day. A tire on my trailer blew! I immediately pulled off the road and and began to access the situation in front of me. My dream of the evening’s comforts was slipping away before my eyes! As I was standing there, frustrated, a man driving a farm equipment service truck was coming up the road. He had just made a service call to a nearby farm and was on his way back to Arcadia when he saw me standing there contemplating my situation. He stopped, came over and asked if he might be of help. I gladly accepted his offer as I didn’t even have a lug wrench for the trailer with me much less a jack! He went to his truck, got out a jack and lug wrench and changed the tire. While he was changing the tire we started chatting and with his prompting, I shared with him that I had been in Arcadia helping out from the Hurricane aftermath. Once he finished changing the tire, I asked him how much I owed him and he said, “There’s no charge; this is my way of showing my appreciation for what you’ve done for the people of this area when we needed it most.” Again, I had been so frustrated by my situation, that his kindness really touch my heart. With his help, and in yet another thankful mood, I was again on my way and a step closer to dropping off the forklift and then going home to my hot shower and comfortable bed.
About an hour from where I would unload the forklift, I experienced another blown tire - this time on the motorhome! So, I nursed the motor coach to a truck stop to have them replace the tire. Once stopped, I saw that the blown tire had damaged the wheel well and also saw where radiator coolant was pouring out of the radiator. Not only did the rear tire blow, but when it did, it cast a piece of the tire thru the fiberglass tire hull and went into and damaged the fan blade on the engine! The fan blade, in turn, damaged the radiator! Now, I really had a situation to deal with!!
Considering it was Friday, I needed to get the forklift back that day or I’d be charged for an additional 2-day rental. When I called the rental company and told them what I’d been doing and that I was stuck at a truck stop an hour away, they sent a truck and trailer to get the forklift and didn’t charge me a thing. I was reminded of a ‘law of life’ which I had somewhat forgotten about: when you are in the right spirit doing good, it’s amazing what the Universe will provide!
I then called a tow company in Gainesville, who sent a wrecker to tow the motor coach into their shop at a very reduced rate. I also called a close friend who immediately came to pick me up. And, to my delight, that night I got home to my hot shower, soft pillow and comfy bed, grateful for the experiences that I had that day! What had been frustrating at first, actually provided an avenue for me to be reminded that there is good that will come from any seemingly ‘bad’ experience, if we only will be open for the good to come!
My whole experience in Arcadia can be summed up in one Bible verse. In Matthew 7:7, Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will open.”
I wanted to help the victims of Hurricane Charley - I asked Susan Rachles how I could help and she opened the door. I asked for volunteers to cook meals for hurricane victims and the Rotary Foundation Fryers answered the call. I needed assistance getting home and although I first saw closed doors, all the doors were opened when I asked for help.
For a very self-sufficient guy, this was a big lesson for me. We aren’t weak when we ask for help; we are allowing someone else to feel the joy of helping. Think about it for a moment - that guy who stopped to help me change the trailer tire - when he drove away, you know that he felt good for doing a good deed as did all the others who assisted me. Everyone’s live was blessed by the giving as well as the receiving.
Ask for help when you need it; give help when you can. It’s a great way to live.
Truly, we receive so much more when we give! In the words of St. Francis of Assisi, “It is in giving that we receive.”