I’m picking up on the theme I ended with last week.
The hamlet of Arnold lies in the southeast corner of Abbotsford, on Sumas Prairie. It contains perhaps 50 small acreages (or large lots), has a community church, and not much else.
The water was already flooding the manicured yards of Arnold from the overflow of the Nooksack River when the Sumas River dike broke last week. The inundation from that breech soon forced its residents to evacuate.
My friend lives in the heart of this close-knit community. Late last week, the waters beginning to subside, he returned to assess the damage and begin repairs. His finished basement had flooded to a depth of about 5 feet. Eleven of his 13 chickens had miraculously survived, but the henhouse was a mess. So was his travel trailer, where water had risen above floor height.
Having mucked out the basement already, I went to help him with tearing out the drywall Monday afternoon. My intentions allowed me access by the otherwise closed road.
Driving into Arnold, I saw that water had subsided from most yards (not all), though the crops in the fields beyond were still under water. I was amazed at the number of vehicles parked alongside the roads, with big gravel trucks maneuvering around them as they accessed the community. A large SuperSave truck was just leaving, having dropped off a massive refuse container.
The church parking lot was humming with activity. I saw a temporary fruit-type stand set up, and a sign that read “flood-damaged materials only.” I didn’t notice much else, as I was turning at that intersection and looking the other direction.
Arriving at my friend’s property, I saw at least a half-dozen others already working there—moving salvageable items, cutting and dismantling drywall, carrying out garbage and cleaning up behind, cleaning up the hen house, and the supplies and containers associated with that. I joined the drywall crew.
“Did you notice the church yard?” Ed asked me.
“Well, yes, there was a lot of activity there. I noticed a bit.”
“It’s been set up as a collection depot. All our damaged stuff goes there–appliances on one pile, drywall on another, general refuse on another. There’s a loader there loading it into gravel trucks. They’re all donating their time and equipment to haul away all the garbage.”
“Who’s paying the dumping fees,” I asked.
At about 2:30, a woman walked into or dirty workplace with a tray full of scones. “You guys hungry?” she asked. Ed decided it was a good time for us all to take a break and we headed for the cleaner outside patio to enjoy scones and some drinks.
But before we even got there, another car pulled up to the driveway. “Do you need some chicken feed?” asked the driver. “Bring a pail, I’ll be right back and show you where they’re giving it away, in case you need more after that.”
Ed missed much of the break, getting feed for his chickens.
The conversation around the break mentioned that earlier a crew had come by wondering whether there were any appliances needing disposal. They were picking up all ruined appliances from the neighbourhood.
“Nice little entrepreneurial venture,” said one of the guys, “figure out what’s salvageable and sell it.”
“No,” the first one corrected, “it simply to assist in getting everything to the dump.”
We went back to work. Later, as I carried a batch of drywall out the trailer, a man approached me from the street. “We just finished cleaning up the neighbour’s place and are moving on to the next. The other guys have already moved on. Are they here? Can we help?”
“Thanks for the offer,” I replied, “but we’ve got about as many guys as is efficient here, right now.”
Like I concluded last week, disasters like this bring out the best in humans. It’s good to see how everyone pulls together at such a time.
A couple of other thoughts, also come to mind as I reflected on this.
- We’re all affected by this disaster, from supply chain issues that keep us from filling up our tank, to an inability to travel freely (Ed and his wife, staying in Chilliwack during the evacuation, took three hours to get to his place via Agassiz and Mission, when normally the two would have been about 15 minutes apart), to paying more for products that will incur extra costs, to feeling a bond of empathy with our most affected brothers and sisters, to . . .
- Is the community spirit I saw reflective of our society or is it a remnant of a by-gone era that still exists in hamlets like Arnold. Can it evidence our urban culture, too, where we hardly know our neighbours?
- We really do need community in order to thrive as human beings. Individually, we all need people who are there for us when we need them. Even in a wired world sometimes dominated by virtual reality.
At least, that’s how I see it . . .