A few weeks ago I had the privilege of meeting Maybelline. She was a pretty dark haired woman probably in her mid-forties. She, and just over 200 residents of the community of Sandy Lake, had been evacuated and were now being housed in the arena in downtown Arthur. The residents who arrived in Arthur, not too far from where I live, were offered temporary accomodation there because their community was being threatened by forest fires. Sandy Lake is a community of about 2,800 residents and is close to the Ontario-Manitoba border. Arthur residents had kindly tossed a bit of a lifeline. I thought that was such a great gesture, reaching out to those in need. I wanted to help.
Along with the items I had sorted to give away, I thought it might be a good thing to tuck in a few of my own books hoping that someone might enjoy them. So I did. I signed a few copies and included them in the box. At the arena, I received direction from the Red Cross gal at the desk and she told me where to take my package.
That was when I spotted Maybelline. There were many people milling around, quietly sharing words, drinking coffee, watching and waiting, walking back and forth. Everyone was busy and focussed on something. Except Maybelline.
There was just something about her. Something that made me want to sit and listen to her story. Her smile lit up her face. She stared at me. White girl bringing in 'stuff.' I suddenly felt a little sheepish.
After I had finished emptying my box, I found myself clutching one of my books - A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider. She smiled again and seemed to beckon me to sit down. I did. I asked if it was okay, and she said, yes.
Before 30 seconds had elapsed she was already sharing her situation and how devastating it was for her and her two teenage children to be taken away so suddenly from their home. She had no idea what was happening, although she did tell me that they received daily updates and she was hoping that by Thursday they would be able to return home.
Maybelline looked at me with those deep brown eyes and told me how grateful she was and how nice everyone was to her. She was humbled by the generosity of the local people. I asked her if she might like to read a great book. Her face lit up and she tossed me another helping of her special smile. I handed the book to her and we continued to chat a little longer. I learned that she was a single mom with two teenage children. She was in Arthur with some of her other family members - aunts, uncles and siblings. But she described how many other Sandy Lake residents had been separated from their families as they faced the evacuation and she talked about how she really did not know what to expect when she would finally be allowed to go home. No one really knew. The unknown was particularly hard on everyone, she told me. Her raw emotion touched me deeply.
Looking back now, I should have invited Maybelline to come to my house for dinner. I should have asked her what else I could do for her. I should have given her that ten dollars in my purse. But I didn't. Maybelline and I said our farewells after a while and before I knew it I was in my vehicle with my grandbabies, heading home.
I kept wondering if I missed an opportunity. But later, I turned to page 207 in A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider - the book that I had given to Maybelline. The title was Bannock and Sweet Tea; the author - Dorene Meyer...then I knew why I had to give my new friend a copy...