Monday, April 27, 2009

MENNONITES

I do not judge people generally by a race or religion but I am guilty of judging the Mennonites as a group. I lived in Sarasota Florida years ago when I got out of high school. I was exposed to that particular group of people in such a way that I can't forget. Over fifty years can't fade the memory.


It had been raining for hours and I was living in a flood prone area near the Phillipe Creek. I shined my flashlight on the floor and saw the water creeping up the dresser legs. It was about ankle deep but I wasn't too concerned, just not able to sleep. All valuables in the house were piled as high as possible in case the waters got higher. The power had been cut off for the whole neighborhood. It was dark , stuffy and the rains just kept coming in sheets. The sound on the roof was deafening.


I didn't want to get my feet wet but my curiosity was killing me so I pulled on my rubber boots I had dug out for the occasion and sloshed towards the window to see what it looked like out side. Before I could look out, I spied a face looking back in. Did not know I could scream that loud. Maggie , whom I was renting from, and her young daughter in the next room also started screaming just because I was. They couldn't see what I saw but knew it must be bad.


"It's me---- Buddy, " a familiar face shouted reassuringly over the storm and our screaming. " I have come to get you out." Buddy and his wife were close friends of Maggie's.


"We are all right, " I shouted back, " The water is only inches deep."

"Look again." Buddy hollered, as he shown his light around.

The water outside was almost window high. I guess the house was fairly water tight. That would cease when the water reached the windows. Maggie and Barbara came into my room and panic pretty much ruled when they saw Buddy standing in the middle of a lake that had been the front yard. Buddy could not open the door as it opened out. He said the only way out was through the window. I went out first into the cold, stinking water, then Margaret. Last, Buddy lifted the still crying Barbara out and he carried her.The water was almost chest high on me and the current was strong, but we hung on to Buddy and finally made it to higher ground and his car.


When the water receded in a few days, we went back. My car was shot and Maggie's little sports car was gone. Newspapers had reported that a small red car had been seen floating down the creek during the storm. It was never found.


Then we entered the house. A coral snake was curled up by the door. I managed to shoo it outside with a broken tree branch. Mud and mole crickets, which I had never seen before, covered the floor. Mole crickets are really loathsome looking creatures. God was not at his best the day he made them. The sewers had backed up so the smell was awful. Five feet of muddy water had painted the walls brown. All the carefully elevated treasures were ruined. Though we were not aware of it at the time, Maggie was in the beginning stages of a nervous breakdown. A recent bad divorce,then this, took its toll.


Furniture had fallen apart from floating in the foul waters. The enormity of what was facing us was sickening. That was when we heard the tapping at the open door. There at the door stood a Mennonite man , his wife and about 6 friends. The Mennonites had a large colony not too far from this subdivision. For those who don't know, Amish are a religious sect that split from the Mennonites in the 16Th century. Their theological difference stemmed from disagreement over infant baptism. They have similar beliefs but the Mennonites do allow automobiles and electricity in their lives in today's world. I have enormous respect for both the Amish and the Mennonites. The Plain People were easily identified by their dress. The men in dark trousers, suspenders and white shirts and the women in long dresses and white caps.


The leader stood at the door and said in a gentle voice."We have come to clean your house. You can stay or leave as you wish." I looked out in the yard and they all carried buckets, mops and cleaning items. Margaret started to cry, I fought it fiercely and Barbara sniffled because it seemed the thing to do. They promised to carry all the ruined furniture to the street where the city promised to pick it up. We gathered up our ruined clothes in hopes that 15 washings might restore them but it was a futile effort. Only thing to survive was jewelry.


We left them there to attend to laundry and that selfless group of people tackled the impossible task. They will never know how they helped to shoulder a heavy burden that day. They were gone when we got back and so was the mud. The sewers smell was replaced with the smell of Clorox. Everything was still stained but disinfected.


I would like to think I would help strangers like that but I seriously doubt that I am that selfless a person. I will quickly give you money, food or clothing, but would I work that hard for a total stranger? I don't know. They did not hesitate. Their large colony tackled the entire subdivision.

I have such a love for them that today when I see the familiar dress and caps, I go up to them and ask,"Are you Mennonite?" If they say yes, I just say "Thank you," and try to explain my thanks. They usually look confused, like why do I think that was special? It is just what a person does.

That attitude along with the deed, makes them indeed very special.

10 comments :

  1. What a story, patti. I can't imagine what it's like to be in a flood like that, especially at night. The Mennonites' gift of service is truly a profound statement of their religious principles. A deeply honorable thing.

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  2. Patti, what a great story! Those people behaved as real Christians should do. What an ordeal did you have to experience. Hopefully we don't have to face a flood. Thanks for sharing. Thanks also for your visit!

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  3. Did you recover any of your photographs from the flood? The Mennonites are beautiful, benevolent people…heartwarming story.

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  4. Oh how neat, Patti... I have never known any Amish or Mennonites personally--but I have NEVER read anything bad about any of them. They are truly nice people--to the core.

    There are great people in this world--but we only hear the bad news. Thanks for this special post.

    I used to live in Venice, FL (in the early '70's) ---and we went to Sarasota often to eat at a great seafood place there. AND--we'd go to Siesta Key to hunt for shark's teeth.

    Thanks again for another great post.
    Hugs,
    Betsy

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  5. Wonderful story, Patti. I hate it that you and your friends had to go through an awful flood, but you were blessed, indeed, to have such caring neighbors. There used to be, or perhaps still is, a Mennonite colony around Harrison. They ran a bakery which made the most wonderful bread.

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  6. robin
    Fortunatley I was young enough that it was more of an adventure. Maggie who lost everything was crushed and did not fully recover her spirit.
    I have the deepest respect for people like the Mennonites who never had to think about what was right to do. They just did it.

    Reader Wil,
    This group of people give us all a goal to shoot for. They live the Christian principals while some people just recite them. They set the bar high for me.

    Jewels,
    Fortunately I was young enough to not be intrusted with any family albums. The pictures I lost were of beach parties,boyfriends, first car, and photo booth fun. Gaining the knowledge of such a selfless act, was worth the pain for me. It was too high a price for Maggie I fear.

    Betsy,
    When you hear the daily news, you think the world has gone totally mad but when I look around me, all I see are good people. Pretty sure we outnumber the bad.
    My parents lived in Venice in the early 60's on the Gulf. Loved the black sand beaches.

    Pat,
    I do truely feel blessed by the ordeal.Not only for the wonderful Mennonites, but the whole town opened pocket books, homes and hearts. It was a humbling experience. The worst of times brings out the best in people.

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  7. I feel all churned up! Awesome (in the true sense of the word) post Patti. So sad about poor Maggie and the flood, but so good what the Mennonites did.
    Don't know if I am allowed to do this in this PC laden world, but here goes anyway... here is a hug from me for that story.. #! P.

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  8. Peter
    Thank you so much for the kind words.
    Hugs travel wonderfully in cyber space. Yours made it all the way from New Zeland and was still warm when it got here. Thanks so much.

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  9. Patti, I am constantly amazed at your posts, which reveal layers of your life - and a varied one it has been. I am so sorry about the flood, but didn't it teach you a great lesson!

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  10. kenju,
    Yes it did Judy, thanks.
    They as a group, come the closest to a Crist like life as I have seen. They gave me a behavior to asprire to,that I always fall short of, but continue to try for.
    Perhaps if I told my stories in a more chronological order, I would be revealed as the hum drum person I am but I shall continue to flit like a hummingbird.

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