The last thing we did in the Florida Keys was walk around the neighborhood known as The Avenues. The last people I met there were Adam and Chevy. I find their stories so interesting and connected, I decided to share them together on this last (for now) installment of Stories from the Field.
When I first met him, Adam made me nervous – probably because I made him nervous. Arlene and I were going door to door and before we made it up the steps to Chevy’s, Adam had come out to meet us. We explained that we had come on behalf of the United Methodist Church, and they were offering case workers beyond those of FEMA. I won’t forget Adam’s question: “Why?”
What a thing to ask us! And certainly what a valid question. Why do we offer help to strangers? I can only offer my reasoning – we are all connected in one family of humanity. None of us truly are strangers; we all experience the same things.
Adam, of all people, had a right to be suspicious of well-sounding intentions. As the father of four children, he’d lived in the Florida Keys for 30 years. So he was especially astounded when, after Irma tore through, his landlord informed him the National Guard had taken all his property. Adam later found out his landlord had removed it all in order to evict Adam, repair, and re-lease the property he had been renting for twice as much. Adam could no longer afford his home, so it was leased to someone else. As if that was not enough, Adam also found out the equipment he’d bought for his landscaping company had not been sold to him legally. That investment was also a bust. So now, he’s ready to be done with the Florida Keys. He wants to move his family far, far away – maybe California. In the meantime, he, his wife, and his children are staying with Chevy.
Chevy, on the other hand, is the silver lining story of Hurricane Irma. Much like Adam, she had been renting her home until the storm. Also like Adam, her home was devastated by winds, rain, and the rising sea. But unlike Adam, her landlord did not want to repair the home. Instead, her landlord agreed to sell the home to her. She was able to scrounge together enough money for a down payment, then set to work repairing the place herself. She told us she had never scrubbed so much in her life. She’s basically rebuilding the house from the ground up, but it’s hers, and she’s ecstatic.
She told us how one day she came outside to get some fresh air after scrubbing with chemicals all morning, when she saw a team working in her yard to clear the debris for her there. In a couple hours, they cleaned it completely. She also was eligible for aid from FEMA, a huge blessing with her son and Adam’s kids running around. She told me she could use some new pots and pans, but she says she’s better off than so many people. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but she remains hopeful that this will be a new and better chapter in her and her son’s lives.
I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed sharing these stories with you. I hope they have helped you to feel more connected to the Florida Keys as we return – yes, I said it – this summer. Be on the lookout, as even more exciting news is coming soon!
Love and peace,