— Jewish proverb
This week my brother’s family has been carried aloft on the strong shoulders of a community whose compassion is without limit.
This outpouring of support followed a devastating fire that destroyed the family’s home last Saturday evening.
A Hanukah menorah ignited the blaze. It sat on the same mantel where they’ve lit candles for 34 years. Somehow the candles ignited a painting over the fireplace, which set the ceiling on fire. Within minutes the house was consumed. My niece, her husband, and two small kids were also living in that house, and were home when it happened.
All four of them made it out alive and unharmed. In Israel on Hanukah they say, ‘Nes Gadol Haya Po’– a great miracle happened here. Last Saturday we could say the same.
Two pets also made it out, but two pets perished.
My brother and sister-in-law were at a movie when it happened. They sped home to a house that was no more. If you think that flames blazing across the night sky only occur in the movies, think again.
It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen. Complete destruction. Nothing remained, including all the belongings of my niece and her family that had been stored in the garage.
“Here we are, with only the clothes on our backs,” my brother said.
The six of them came back to my house, where they are staying as long as needed.
We sat together Saturday night in shock. We scrambled to find clean clothes and toothbrushes for everyone. At long last we went to bed. No one slept much.
Word of the disaster spread fast. By Sunday morning friends were dropping off Target bags of clothes and toys, boxes of bagels and donuts. Every time I walked by my front door, another bag had appeared, as if fairies had left it there.
These were from friends, the inner circle, the ones you expect to step up.
By Sunday evening offers of help extended far, far beyond the inner circle. A friend thought it made sense to set up a GoFundMe page. He was right. Donations of all sizes poured in.
An Amazon wish list was set up too. For the past few days, my front step looks like Santa emptied the whole sleigh there. Everyone’s basic needs have been replenished.
People have brought us meals, offered to babysit, sent emails, texts, and Facebook messages of love and support.
What has left my brother, sister-in-law, and their family speechless with gratitude is the scope of help. It has come from friends, friends-of-friends, and strangers. Jewish community and non-Jewish community. People they work with now and colleagues from the past. Customers, former students, and people who simply heard about it and wanted to help.
One person wrote this on the GoFundMe page: “Just heartbroken for this family I don’t know.”
What kind of community produces people like that? The kind of community we are so lucky to live in.
“Minnesota Nice” is for real.
This outpouring of support will enable two families who lost so much to rebuild. But more than that, the support will help them recover emotionally. Losing your home to fire is a massive horror. But even in this horror, there is beauty, thanks to the compassion and generosity of people who want to help.
Every act of kindness contains this message: You are not suffering alone. In that space there is holiness.
And in this week of horrendous loss, that is what will carry everyone forward.
A terrific story of true compassion.
Even in this devisive atmosphere around our country, I think most people are really “good” and they do step up when there is a tragedy.
Sally, well done!!
I didn’t know if I should hit the “love” emoji or the “sad” emoji. I am so SAD that our very dear friends have suffered such an immeasurable loss, but I LOVE what you wrote and how there are SO many kind and compassionate people in this world.
The horrible memories of this awful disaster will hopefully fade in time, but knowing Sam and Robin and James and Kayla, the memories of all the love and support they have received, will never be forgotten
Thanks, Aunt Sally.
We are encouraging our little community to backup their stuff (photos videos etc) in support of recovery. Welcoming everyone here to join us
Not just any friends… What goes around comes around. This family has opened their hearts and home to friends and family for so many years of friendship. These are remarkably gracious people and they, themselves are great members of the community. I’m so sorry for their losses, and yet, I’m so relieved they’re here to receive kindnesses.
Such a terrible tragedy turned into hope, love, and an outpouring of support offers hope to all that people and the communities we live in are generally very positive, loving, and “good”. I am a neighbor of this family & seeing Their home burn was tragic. What was even more heart-breaking was “seeing them see” their family’s home destroyed. It was a moment I wished I could have said or done something to change it for them. To do something to ease this heavy burden immediately. A moment that would change their lives in an instant.
Despite this, they immediately displayed a sense of relief & Thankfulness that no human lives were taken. They immediately saw the importance of what truly mattered and what “could have been”. I look forward to the day we are neighbors by proximity once again, when their house is sitting on the steep hill, overlooking the HaPpy kids on the sledding hill, and they are able to make their house “home” once again. In the meantime, I am honored this family is our neighbors, our friends, and commmnity members. It’s people, not “things” that make our neighborhoods strong and communities tight knit!
Thank You Gale Family for bringing this community together in a time of need. We are here for you & each other!
My dearest Sally, Mike and all of the family, I’m in a state of shock. I pray that G-d blesses each of you with health, strength and the ability to withstand this tragedy. You give so much to everyone and to the world at large. Do not even be surprised that it is a blessing to be able to give and support you in this horrendous time of need. My heart breaks for Sam and Robin and their children. I may be 500 miles away, but I am there with my heart and soul. Tell me when you are able what I can do to help. I await your request and reply…as I wipe my tears. Jan