Arlene, a member of the other mission team, and I met Dick on our last day in the Florida Keys. We were walking through a neighborhood called “The Avenues” to encourage people to pursue case management through UMCOR, as they could pick up where FEMA left off. The Avenues were likened to the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Similar to the area next to NOLA’s levees, much of The Avenues simply had been washed away. It was a day I had been both eager for and dreading simultaneously.
We had not gotten more than 50 feet down the road when Dick came riding up on his tricycle. Having just watched Jacob riding around on one the day before, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the familiarity of the situation.
They were both jovial enough and certainly healthy, but where Jacob was full of hope, Dick was just done with all of it and all of us.
Dick was just 19 years old when he came to the Keys with his aunt. He had just finished his time in the service during World War II and had come down to help her move. When he got there, however, he decided to stay. Back then, he told us, there was only one restaurant anywhere nearby, and there was nothing on the key where he settled. Now 90, he was feeling like he was being punished for being prepared. He’d saved his money, which meant he didn’t qualify for FEMA assistance. So he was getting ready to leave the neighborhood full of his memories to move into an assisted living center, where he would no longer be allowed to ride his bike.
Dick seemed to slip into a memory as he muttered something about the woman who had used to live in the home behind us. He snapped out of it when we offered him the assistance of the United Methodist Church.
“I got turned down for help by FEMA. These people won’t want to help me.”
We assured him they would, but he continued to protest, so we suggested he take a flier and pass it along to a friend.
“Oh, if I can’t get help, I’m certainly not going to let them help anyone else!”
He put two of them in his basket anyway, before he rode away. I’m hoping that maybe, just maybe, he’ll give faith a try.
Love and peace,