He said, "We lost it all ...", in a way that caused the room to feel heavy.
You can tell when a person feels the weight of their situation, and what that means.
He was telling me the story of when his fiance left the door of a small pot belly stove slightly open to make sure the puppy had enough heat while they were at work.
"The call came right before lunch, and my father in law told me, it was gone ... our trailer ... we lost everything ... we lost it all."
John has worked all his life, hard work since he was a kid, and was always was able to provide for his family. Even through this devastating fire, he was determined to not give up. His co-workers held a fundraiser, and his family came together to help them rebuild their lives. It worked, and within weeks John was back in a small house with his family.
Everything seemed to be coming together, but then an accident changed everything.
John was walking home from a relatives home down a dark country road. "I heard the car coming, and I knew, I knew .. there was nothing to do except pray ..."
That accident set into motion a year of pain, and losing even more for John. Without insurance for his hospital stay and multiple surgeries, John experienced personal and family stress that led to him being discharged from the hospital without a home to go back to.
At The Salvation Army of Anderson, we have made it our mission that we never turn anyone away, so there was a bed for John.
His leg was severely broken in multiple places, and when he did get to us, he had 5 screws and plates holding it all together. On top of that, he is a diabetic and was at risk of infection. Because of community partnerships, our case manager was able to make sure John had all his necessary prescriptions and insulin to manage his diabetes.
I remember the day when John said "Captain, I can't walk around, but I'm not a freeloader, I need to do something." Even though John was unable to walk far or put any weight on his injured leg, he wanted to contribute. He began to sit everyday and fold all the shelter blankets that were washed from the previous day.
Today John continues to heal, having experienced another major surgery, but you can still find him everyday making sure that he finds a way to give back to others. Whether it is scrubbing a pot or folding blankets, John is the first to volunteer to make sure he is contributing.
He still has a few months of recovery before he will be fully able to work, but at The Salvation Army here in Anderson, he hasn't lost his work ethic. His daughter has begun to visit with him on Sundays, and is one of our best contributors during Sunday School.
We are all excited for the day when we get to help John move into his new house and get it ready for his daughter to visit. Until then, John will have a safe place to stay, and a place give back to. If you're ever around Tolly Street during the day, stop by and see the nicest piles of folded blankets in town, and hear Johns story. Today it doesn't start with "We lost everything ..."