Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Hospitality (02/07/05)
TITLE: Strangers in the Night
By Linda Germain
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“Honey, where are you going?”
“The street is full of fire trucks.”
He moved over to the window for one more look, as if to make sure he was correct.
“That house on the corner is burning. I’m going down there!”
This woman did not intend to miss anything. She leaped out of bed to throw on something warm. It was below freezing outside and had been raining earlier. On top of that, there was a remnant of snow left from last week.
“Who lives in that house?” she asked, as they made their way toward the blaze.
“I don’t know, but I wonder why there is no one else out here. The wind could shift and cause serious damage to other property. Besides, how could anyone sleep with all the noise?”
As they approached the inferno, the air was acrid with black smoke. There were four young teenage girls huddled together, totally oblivious to the slush and ice covering their bare feet. A few yards away stood a woman and four younger boys, all staring in shock at a home disintegrating before their eyes.
As naturally as breathing, the man - my father, took off his coat and wrapped it around two of the girls. He spoke to the fire captain then rushed back to his house to retrieve his van. Quickly, he ushered all nine stranded neighbors and his spouse into its warmth and then backed up the few hundred feet to his own driveway. Even that short distance would have been too much for unshod feet.
His energetic assistant bustled into the house to get coffee and hot chocolate started and to find robes and socks for everybody. In between soothing reassurances and nourishing bowls of broth, she asked the woman, “Is there anyone we can call?”
The bewildered answer was barely above a whisper. “No…uh, yes. The children’s father is married again. He lives across town.”
In a short time, after several cups of liquid warmth, the newly homeless visitors had finally stopped shaking.
Dad made one brief trip back to the smoldering mess to make sure the other unsung heroes in this story would remain for a while. An hour earlier he had been sleeping next to his wife. Now there were nine stunned strangers in his living room with no place to go.
“Okay,” he said, making the decision for them, “Here’s the deal. We just happen to have two extra rooms and a bath. You’ll stay tonight, then we’ll figure out what to do in the morning.”
The woman did not have the strength to protest. In a quivering voice she told him they would be happy to sleep on the floor. Dad began laughing.
“This very week ‘something’ told me to buy furniture to put in those empty rooms we do not use. There are two brand new double beds and a fold out sofa. And, as a bonus, there are two dressers with mirrors,” he kidded.
His busy mate scurried by loaded down with towels, soap, extra blankets and a clock. He added, “Right, dear?”
“Oh my, of course,” she agreed. “The Lord nudged us on this furniture spree for a reason. Our home is your home. You must stay. By the way, what are your names?”
That was just the comedic relief they needed.
The next morning, after a good breakfast provided by the accidental hosts, the fire victims were able to rescue a few necessities from the least damaged part of their house. The children’s father agreed to keep the four boys until she could lease a place.
For one month the girls and the mother lived in those two rooms. Finally, in a rental house, she cooked a lovely dinner for the strangers who had rescued them that cold night; their visiting daughter tagged along.
With tears in her eyes, the woman confided to me, “I thank God for these two who offered real help when we were in such dire straits. The Bible says to love your neighbor as yourself. Do you realize how incredibly unusual your folks are?”
I just smiled. She didn’t know the half of it.
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