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Hope Today Brings Change Tomorrow

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I feel so compelled on this day, Martin Luther King Day, and the day before the inauguration of our new president to share with you a touching story that I am proud to be a very small part of.

I truly was moved to my core as a young child by Martin Luther King and his speech that echoes in the hearts of all Americans; “I Have a Dream.” I sensed his power even at this young age and regretted that our country did not have the benefit of having him with us and to see his ideas evolve. I felt his power and feared what this loss would bring. We have another chance, I see.

This story that I would like to share is of a young twenty-nine-year-old woman who lives not four miles from me, Emily also had a dream. And her dream came to fruition today, on Martin Luther King Day … and the day before Martins’ dream becomes a reality also.

Emily’s story was brought to the attention of three men with huge hearts, one a dear friend of mine, prone to doing good deeds without thought. This one was a challenge of obstacles whose heights were unknown.

Emily lives here in Chester County in a little train stop town. Blink and you’ve passed it. It, and many of the towns surrounding, are part of what is called the Main Line of Philadelphia. Named because of the affluent homes that grace the narrow streets of the main causeway known as Lancaster Pike, which travels parallel to the commuter train bringing city people from Philadelphia to the affluent, lush surroundings they call home here in the horse country of Chester County.

Emily is a dedicated, single mother of two small girls, ages eight and four. She is collecting permanent disability due to being diagnosed with a life altering illness. Her four year old, Anna, is suffering from liver cancer and Emily is her sole caregiver. Her daughter had one surgery not long ago to remove the cancer, however, the tumors have returned. She now has seven tumors to which her small body must battle. No temporary caregiver can hold a childs’ hand as they struggle with the effects of chemo on their frail little bodies. So Emily is in her home that she is thankful to have, only because her grandmother passed away and left the property to she and her brother. She has been without heat for eighteen months because the boiler was broken. Winter was coming and Emily didn’t know what to do.
Emily doesn’t have the resources that her neighbors have, live-in maids, gardeners, personal chefs, etc. Emily has been without heat this winter every day and night, until today. What a victorious day for her. Martin Luther King Day, the day before Barack Obama, her elected president, takes office and works to bring about the change Emily is so desperate for.

Emily had reached out to her community services that aid residents of Chester County, only to be turned away. “We don’t serve that town. Yes, it is part of Chester County, but there really isn’t a need in that Main Line community, so, even though you live there, we can’t serve you and your family. We are sorry, Emily.”

Well, this is where the guys come in. Somehow they were made aware of this strong, determined young woman who was looking to get help in repairing her furnace so that she could get an oil delivery for the winter before the elements became too harsh. This project began during Thanksgiving for the three volunteers, who all worked diligently most evenings until 10 or 11 pm before heading home to their families, to wake and go to their own jobs. Broken radiators were removed, electrical boxes were rewired, a new chimney cap was installed, as well as having the chimney cleaned and a new tank of oil delivered. Many other obtacles were thrown at them but they felt a sense of determination they didn’t quite understand. One of these dedicated volunteers had a family crisis of his own to deal with but he felt strongly that this family needed him too.

Several local companies were contacted to donate help, parts and technical support. These three spent hours upon hours donating their time and manual labor efforts to right the furnace situation and bring heat to the home. After purchasing space heaters to help fight the elements until things were up and running, the project, unfortunately came to a halt because after getting the boiler functioning the men found that they couldn’t get it sealed properly to avoid carbon monoxide build up. The unit was too old for a perfect repair. A new furnace would cost upwards of $3,000. What to do?
This is where the angels took over. This story was presented to the church congregation one Sunday after services sometime around New Years. Everyone who heard took it upon themselves to perform a good deed, maybe their personal New Years’ resolution. They were told in great detail of the circumstances. It was thought things could be righted for this local resident, but one person couldn’t do it alone. The people were asked can anyone help? Well, within thirty-six hours, they raised the needed $3,000 of donations, with more coming in daily. A total of $5,000 in funds was donated within a week to this worthy cause. Quickly, a fund was set up at this church so that all the monies that came in were routed to the furnace project.

Through a local heating and plumbing business, a very generous price was set and a new furnace was purchased by pure donation from many, many strangers, including myself. I don’t belong to this congregation but I saw the awe on my dear friends’ face as he told me of his conversations with Emily and, in spite of her trials, how amazed he was of her strength, fortitude, and determination. This woman never had what her neighbors had, but she had a car that got her from place to place, a job that was flexible to accommodate her needs to care for her daughters, and a place to call home. So much of that was taken from her, against her will, but she still had resolve and strength and could envision the light at the end of the tunnel when others stood in her shoes for a brief moment and felt only defeat.

How did this woman hang onto that determination and optimism and persevere? She had a dream. She has a dream. She is willing to work hard to be sure that her children will thrive and carry that dream forward. Emily is exactly the person that will make that happen. Today and also tomorrow.

Her heat was turned on today, Martin Luther King Day and her children did a dance of joy! Simple joy! You don’t know how good I feel, how moved I was by this story, and that my small contribution helped to enable her family to feel warmth and love surround them. Emily’s story so encouraged this small Methodist congregation that they are planning to create an organization inspired by this story called Neighbors in Need to continue to reach out to people in our community who are struggling to meet unprecedented challenges.
Emily is overwhelmed at the generosity, friendship, and compassion she has received from her community and does not take this gift lightly. She can rest at night knowing her children will be warm, fed and clothed and can concentrate on getting her child the care she needs and seeing her family move forward in this great time of hope.

I share this story with you today because this is what it is truly all about. Challenges that seem insurmountable. Dedicated souls striving to only do good and to bring about an outcome that will help people move forward and be prosperous, content and empowered for years to come.

 Please note the names of the family have been changed to assure anonymity.


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