I want to share a story with you. It’s a little bit strange, and a whole lot of wonderful. It’s something that happened to us. Something that restored a bit of hope for us, that we’re not invisible, and that we matter.
Toward the end of 2012, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, some exterior under-ground piping that connects from our home to the city sewer system broke. I’m not a very technical person, I can’t tell you exactly what it was or how it happened….my husband could. All I knew was we could no longer use our own water. It simply would not drain.
We suddenly lost the ability to do our own laundry, take showers, do dishes….clean our own home. We didn’t have the money to repair it. We learned how to make do. I figured out how to drain water from the washer machine into a rolling trash bin….and drag it outside to a storm drain and dump it. Oh, I guess I can’t say we couldn’t take showers….but they had to be fast….not as frequent….it would take days to drain. You don’t even want to know details about how personal matters were dealt with. It was very much like camping….in your own home.
We began to try and save the money we needed to get repairs down…and got three estimates…..and were highly discouraged because of how much it would cost. We were determined to take care of it on our own and said nothing to anyone about it.
Yes. We were “broke” financially….but we consider ourselves fortunate in that we kept our home, and are able to pay the mortgage on time every time…..and this after both of us lost jobs and benefits and took labor positions to make ends meet. We were lucky ones. We didn’t end up homeless. We were just left in a position where after bills, nothing was left.
We dug our heels in and dealt with it. Knowing it was going to be a long time before we could do the repairs.
Come March the following year, still singing the same tune….I finally had a weak moment and lost patience when our furnace went out too. We were still having some pretty cold nights and needed heat. I mentioned it on a Facebook post….just that I was frustrated. A rant. I wasn’t asking for help. I just wanted to complain for a minute. I felt bad after I posted it too. So many people have it so much worse….was my thinking on this. How could I sit here and complain.
How could I know what that weakness would result in? It’s really pretty amazing.
My husband and I…..we’re proud people….in that it’s hard for us to ask for help. We like to fix things and pay for things ourselves…and if we cannot….we do without. We also are firm believers in doing for others….we volunteer when we can, we’re both Army veterans, we’ve been involved in various community services. All a pleasure and honor to be a part of. To be on the receiving end of it was extremely difficult for us….but it was a beautiful thing.
After my status post tirade of sorts….many Facebook friends messaged us with caring notes. One Facebook friend, unbeknownst to us at the time, began calling businesses one by one here in Champaign, trying to find help for us. Her name is Donna and she lives in Virginia, and nope….we’ve never met her outside of Facebook. Donna PMed me back a few days later and told me I would be getting a call from Lanz Heating and Cooling, INC in Champaign. I was upset and reluctant, but agreed to hear them out.
Shannon from Lanz called me….and I’m told that they (the owners, Troy and Kathleen) want to help us…..AS A GIFT. It was stunning news to hear on the phone. I think that week I cried more every single day, than I had in a long while. LANZ also enlisted the aid of another local area company called Stephens Underground Solutions, to come out and talk to us and have a look at things. That they want to help us because we’re veterans, we’re down on our luck, and I’ve since found out later….they were told some things about us I didn’t know about….that we’ve been involved in a lot of “helping” with animal/refuge/shelter assistance on social media….none of this came from us.
Jesse from STEPHENS came out, he’s the owner, nice guy. Took a look at all our estimates. Looked from inside and outside at what he could see. He assured us under no uncertain terms that it was fixable and would be done quickly.
Jake from LANZ came out 2-3 times of the course of the weekend, and restored our heat, and had to leave to go get a special part in person, to do it. Left us his personal cell number to call if there were problems too.
LANZ and STEPHENS sent teams of guys out the NEXT DAY. Jesse, Trenor, Daniel and Angel from STEPHENS. Lucas and Mike from LANZ. These guys had do dig a huge hole in the back yard, drill through the cement slab in our mud room….and do a whole lot of other piping repairs and replacing…..hard work. In the meantime I am sitting in my house burning with embarrassment. So ashamed that my house isn’t clean, I don’t feel clean, looks bad, probably doesn’t smell good…..worried they would think I was the worst house-keeper and house-wife ever. And not a one of them treated me with anything but respect and dignity, empathy, cheerfulness and kindness. Jesse from STEPHENS was especially gentle with my feelings.
Everything was done in about half a day. We were still reeling from the fact that two local companies…..dedicated a whole lot of man power, man hours, equipment and supplies….to help us…..for nothing. It was a gift. One I still cannot talk about with tearing up, getting choked up.
They did not just restore water and heat to my home. They returned normalcy to my life. I could do my own dishes. I could do my own laundry and the machine would drain itself, like it’s supposed to. I could take a bath, oh heaven, a bath….which I hadn’t been able to do since before the holidays. I could clean my home properly, with good hot water, and make it look good and smell good again. I would not be cold at night because I had heat. I was treated with gentleness and dignity. I was made to feel like I mattered and I wasn’t invisible. My husband was left with a kind of gratitude he still has a difficult time putting into words. He remarked to me privately, and even then, with extreme difficulty and high emotion, that it was the FIRST TIME anyone ever did anything for him because he was a combat veteran. He asked me, “Who does that?” My reply to him was….”Lanz and Stephens do, and did.”
Whether we deserved it or not is debatable. But we are profoundly grateful.
We have since found out in the ensuing months that both companies are heavily involved in community based programs, and have reached out to others in extreme need in the past. Both have good reputations with various contractors we’ve worked with (my husband and I both clean professionally). The way they treat their customers and their employees, it comes from a deeply rooted personal belief system….where they walk their talk in all ways. It shows. At least to me it does. They did not just fix my water and fix my heat….they fixed my hope and made life normal for me again. They made us feel like we mattered.
There is simply no way to quantify that with money. The value of their time, work and materials….was a LOT! The value of their kindness….is priceless.
From my home…..to a friend on Facebook in another state…..to a company here in Champaign, Illinois….who brings in a second company from Farmer City, Illinois….back to my home…..a whole lot of love and care and respect changed hands. That is a beautiful thing.
Stephens Underground Solutions is on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stephens-Underground-Solutions/104493243020720