2-25-20 Pam Neal.jpg

Last night, I lie in bed flanked by pillows and armed with my iPhone and notebook. These days, I’m often up past midnight vacillating between prayer and what-if ruminating thoughts.

I try to trick myself into sleeping, but I can’t seem to shut off my endless quest to determine the next maneuver to outwit impending doom. I won’t list all of the what-ifs that come to mind, but there is one what-if that is most troubling.

In wartimes, soldiers are our front line of defense. They risk their lives to secure and protect our freedom, our safety, our lives. Though my father is a retired Army Lt. Col, the closest I’ve ever come to combat was ROTC Basic Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. The drill sergeants called it ROTC Summer Camp. They couldn’t wait for us to leave so they could train the real recruits. We were all college students, not yet signed on. They couldn’t break us down too much or we’d fly home crying to our parents.

I don’t know combat, but it sure feels like there should be an enemy in all of this. And enemies need soldiers. But who are the soldiers in this crisis? I consider the first line of defense is always the prayer worriers, and next is those willing to walk the community as the hands and feet of Jesus. Loving as an action.

Many of my friends are working from home, on paid leave, or unfortunately, some unpaid. But what about those people whose jobs still require them to show up? The people that the community desperately needs to be willing to come outside and help.

In this kind of disaster, we don’t need military weapons or cannons, we need people who stay the course...with precautions. In disasters of this type, it’s the doctors, nurses, janitors, social service workers, non-profit organizations, and government agencies that ensure those in need can access basic human needs. It’s organizations like Compassion Corsicana, and the Navarro Community Hospital, Salvation Army, policemen, firemen, Presbyterian Children’s Home, the Food Stamp office. It’s the behind the scenes workers who maintain the Corsicana Daily Sun. It’s websites that provide vital information, and quickly switch services to virtual so that some semblance of normal life can continue. It’s the bank employees who allow us to access funds and prevent a financial shutdown. It’s the pastors who responsibly hold virtual services to keep their parishioners connected, it’s the grocery store employees and restaurants and gas station attendants...

In this war to irradicate COVID-19, we have a never-before-seen front line of soldiers.

However, organizations, social service agencies, churches, the government, newspapers, and hospitals can not win this battle alone. In the weeks and months to come, our town will need so much from so many. And that is the thought, the what-if, that keeps me awake:

How will organizations like mine meet the enormous need that is to come?

That terrifying thought was followed by a release within my chest as I remembered the couple who visited my office last week. I’ll call them the Carters. They work in a nearby gas station.

They came to the Compassion Corsicana main office with a 20ish looking man. He was thin, hair wet, and unshaven. The Carters explained that they saw the man walking in the rain outside their gas station for two days. On the second day, they asked if he needed help. He desperately did. He was from California and had somehow gotten separated from his father and left soaking wet, with no money, no food or place to live. He spent the last two days walking in the rain. The Carters got him food and clothes and took him to the YMCA for a shower, but they had no idea what else to do. So they brought him to Compassion Corsicana.

The man had no phone numbers for his family in California and Corsicana had no shelter or long term place for him to stay. But together, the Compassion Corsicana Case Manager, Tasha Tyler, the Carters, and the man explored options. They discussed his difficult experience and brainstormed solutions. The team was finally able to help the man locate a family member in California, he just needed a bus ticket. My organization was set to purchase the ticket, but the Carters insisted on paying. We provided the man food for his bus ride and he headed across town to the bus station.

After the man left, Tasha came to my office excited. When the meeting started, she had no idea how we could help the man. Her heart was warmed by the help that the Carter family provided to the man in helping to explore options and also paying for his ticket. She knew we could have paid for the ticket, but she was inspired by the Carters willingness to partner with us to help someone in need.

This thought finally put me to sleep. Corsicana is full of people like the Carters, willing to roll up their sleeves to help someone in need. That is what it will take to get through this difficult time. It will take community members, young, old, all ages, partnering with our churches, social service agencies, non-profits, and government agencies to meet the needs.

This morning, I am grateful for the Carters, two soldiers of love who partnered with my organization to prevent a casualty, and for the Compassion Corsicana team of workers who show up every day, leaving their families at home, to help those in need. In this work, there is no combat pay, no paid leave, no option to work from home. But there is the wonderful satisfaction of being of service to the community. I am often encouraged by 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV) “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Because of my Faith, I know that God is still in charge and if we give of our selves to each other, we will win this battle.

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Pam C. Dudley (formerly Neal), is a writer, stage director, Social Worker, and CBT certified therapist pursuing the creative life in Corsicana, Texas. She desires to inspire healing and transformation.

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