by Sara Rhodes
The way Vermonters show up for each other is admirable. We can have any number of disputes with our neighbors, but when a crisis appears on the horizon, whether it be as simple as a breakdown in the road, we show up.
It’s a matter of survival in what is sometimes a frozen wasteland. Never a matter of pay or returning the favor. If we can help, we help. This is our way, and this is the right thing to do.
When severe weather strikes, arguments are saved for another day, especially when it’s historical flooding in mid-summer. These qualities exemplify our humanity, our character, and define who we are as a state.
If one has been following local social media threads to see where they should show up to volunteer that day, you may have noticed a tale of two cities, or a tale of two responses, as it were: the Vermont community pages, and the Vermont Christian community pages.
Why don’t the churches cross post on the wider, more visited town pages? Why do they continue to communicate in their own communities?
A disaster is no time for debate, that’s why.
Unnecessary comments on personal beliefs don’t save people’s homes and businesses, that’s why.
Among the messages for help, articles of inspiration, and videos showing current conditions on the ground, a massive, largely unreported effort is taking place. Led by local Barre churches that have been feeding and clothing the homeless and poorest of our region for decades, even folks that never attend or will likely never attend a church service show up knowing their hands will be put to good use at these somehow controversial locations.
Hedding Methodist has been serving up weekly free meals and tending to the needs of the poor for decades. The younger, spryer Enough Ministries have been pumping out multiple free meals a week, warm clothes, and toiletries for several years now. Other churches outside of the town square often join in the efforts, or piggyback similar endeavors or complementary projects to help those in the community that are brushed aside or forgotten.
Indispensable during the worst of Covid-19, Enough Ministries averaged 200 meals a day from a tiny six burner stove in their church kitchen, just as they are doing this week and will continue to do as long as it is necessary.
As we have shown up at our friends’ houses and favorite businesses, trying to dig out, pump out, fill in, people have flocked to the local churches to do what they can to help. When evacuated Barre residents staying at the BOR needed food the morning after the recent flooding, local authorities called Enough Ministries, and those on high ground rose out of bed as the sun came up to get to that little six burner stove and churn out two large meals in six hours.
When Alabama transplants at a church at the edge of town saw the extent of the damage, they did what folks down South do during a natural disaster: they called in disaster response teams associated with their church.
Within hours, assessors that answer the call for help to these events all of the time were here to say, “We have the help you need,” and caravans of equipment and team members mobilized to come and start the journey of restoring our community with us. They are here to do the daunting, difficult work of cleaning and repairing. A time sensitive effort, as they well know.
Is it such a terrible thing that they are churches? Is it such a terrible thing that they are not from Vermont?
Witnessing numerous unkind comments online, hearing of them being shouted at downtown, seeing a lack of local and state media coverage, the concern then becomes a tarnish on our character. Are we becoming what we accuse Christians of being? Are we hateful and discriminatory people, that act like degenerates with folks that think differently than we do? I sincerely hope not.
What does become abundantly clear, is that they came anyway. They are helping hundreds of uninsured, desperate local residents in a professional and respectful manner, and they require nothing in return. Just like a good Vermonter would do.
The author is a Barre area resident.