The call came at 9:40 a.m. yesterday morning.
A house fire...a family of four needing assistance from the American Red Cross.
"Can you go?" the dispatcher asked.
Of course, I replied.
I quickly pulled on my work boots and a thick, warm coat - as you never know how long you'll be outside in the elements. And the elements in the middle of a winter in Kansas City are basically cold. Really cold.
It was a long drive to the tiny town where the fire was...26 miles, one-way...so I had plenty of time to reflect on what I'd be facing when I got there....
...what kind of damage would I be looking at?
...what kind of needs would the family have?
...would they need a place to sleep?
...would they need clothing?
...would they need food?
...and most importantly, how were they doing?
When I arrived at the house, I was initially stunned to see the extent of the damage. The fire had pretty much gutted the entire house...leaving a smoky, charred mess in its wake.
Black, ashy piles of insulation & debris everywhere...all swimming in puddles of water left behind by the fire hoses...my nose was assaulted by the strong odor of burnt wood and plastic, along with other, unidentifiable smells...none of them good.
Pretty much everything they owned in the world was gone. Poof.
As I talked with the family, my eyes took in the scene, as well as their emotional state. It was easy to see they were still somewhat in shock...the fire had started early in the morning, in a bedroom...while they were sleeping.
The sound of breaking glass was what woke them...not smoke detectors, as they had none. They were lucky to survive.
Unfortunately, as we discovered as we walked through the remains, one of their cats didn't survive. The old tomcat lay curled up, almost as if it were sleeping...and the dad choked up when he saw it.
The other cat was still missing - and presumed dead - but the family still held out hope that it was just hiding amidst the chaos. I sent up a silent prayer that their hope wouldn't turn out in vain.
It soon became almost time for me to leave...they had a motel room to spend the night; they had funds from the Red Cross to purchase food and clothing to help them get by; and I had given them a booklet on recovering from a fire.
Oh, and hugs. I had given them some much-needed hugs.
As we walked to the driveway to where my car was, the dad commented on a snowman that was still standing in their front yard. The somewhat-melted snowman had sticks for arms, a carrot for a nose, and a bright, orange stocking cap on it's head.
"Well, will you look at that!" he exclaimed. "As close to the house as that snowman was, and he didn't melt!!"
"Amazing," I said.
The dad continued..."And look at that! I got me a stocking cap!"
And he smiled, as he walked over to the snowman, plucked that cap off of the snowman's head, and placed it on his own.
A bright, orange stocking cap...salvaged because it was on a snowman's head and not in the house...and it was a moment of joy.