Always Look for the Helpers by Anthony Cody

By Anthony Cody | | 2017| Twitter: @LivingnDialogue | Author of The Educator And The Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges The Gates Foundation

Mr. Rogers said, “Always look for the helpers.

In this post Anthony Cody is our helper. He helps a teacher who needed help after the fires in Northern California. Now there are fires in Southern California and again there is an urgent need for helpers.

By Anthony Cody

I recently got a call from one of those helpers. A friend named Mike Aplet was organizing a workday to help a retired teacher affected by last month’s fires. 

About a month ago, my part of the world was a very smoky, scary place. Wildfires were burning in Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino Counties, north of San Francisco. Out of control blazes got within ten miles of our home, and we even packed up our dogs and headed for the coast for a few days, because we did not feel safe in our home in the forest. 

Fortunately, our town escaped serious damage. A nearby area was not so lucky, and about two hundred families lost their homes. As the ashes cooled, a friend with experience in construction gave me a call and told me of a retired Spanish teacher in need of help.

Her home is at the end of a winding gravel road. It is completely off the grid – electricity comes from solar panels and a generator, and water comes to the home from a storage tank that is fed by a spring about a mile away. She was home the night the fires were raging, whipped by forty and fifty mile an hour winds. She was not even aware of the fires until a neighbor drove to her house and got her out. She left in the middle of the night, and for a week did not even know if her home had burned or not. Luckily, when she went home, she found the house standing, though fire had burned the grass and brush all around it. The fire also consumed her generator, and melted the pipes carrying water to the storage tank. 

Mike rounded up a crew of about five guys, tools, pipe and a contraption he built to cart everything up the hill to the spring. We met on a cool grey October morning, and Mike shared the plan. The pipes coming out of the earth had melted and needed to be replaced. We had to hike our way up the hill, across rugged terrain that had been thoroughly scorched. 

A retired city engineer named Alan spotted a wet spot on the hill. He stayed behind to dig up the pipe so it could be patched. The whole crew pitched in to help when we got back to the spot on our way down. It was a team effort all the way.

Some places were steep, so the wheels on our garbage pail were not a big help – sometimes it took three of us to pull and push the thing up the hill. We pushed our way through crimson-branched manzanita bushes, leaves burned off, climbing up perhaps five hundred feet of elevation and across a mile of hillside to reach the spring. We found water pouring out of the twisted, burned pipe, and got to work with a hacksaw to remove and replace the ruined parts. We made three or four repairs, and reconnected everything, sending water flowing back down the hill. When we were done, we worked our way back down the pipeline, stopping every once in a while to check the flow of water. When we got back to the house, the water was gushing out. A few more hours work and the water was flowing into the storage tank, and by the evening, water was coming into the home. 

The homeowner expressed her gratitude at having her water restored. But I was left feeling much more grateful for the chance to work alongside some of our community’s helpers.

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