September 1st, 2017 - Houston, Texas
Moroni Whitefeather heaved the remains of the last sofa on one shoulder and headed out of another Houston home flooded by Hurricane Harvey. With the black mold growing on it, this couch, like so much else in this city, had become hazardous waste.
“Slow down, big fella,” Thomas Pahona said. “Leave some work for the rest of us.” They’d grown up together on the Hopi reservation in Arizona, and he was the one who’d asked Moroni to join him on this service project.
Moroni laughed but didn’t slow. He’d already taken the other three sofas out of this house by himself, and it wasn’t the first house they’d emptied that day. Nor was it their first day here. He was covered in sweat from the combination of heat and physical exertion, but he didn’t care. The rank smell of the area had nothing to do with body odor.
Once all the furniture was gone, he went back inside and helped tear out the lower row of drywall. This was the most costly hurricane the world had ever endured, and the costs were still adding up as the black mold spread over and through everything.
He was on vacation, volunteering his time to help during this crisis. Yet as a headhunter for Sanctuary Foods, the fastest growing all-natural food company in the world, he couldn’t help but notice the kind of people he was looking for everywhere he went. He’d already found two couples who seemed perfect for leadership training and he couldn’t resist offering jobs to them.
It was always sad to see people lose all their worldly possessions, and there were plenty of people here who had lost everything. He hadn’t yet spotted the owners of the house he was helping to clear at the moment. They were usually easy to spot as they cried over the water damage to their family heirlooms. Even he sometimes cried at seeing pieces of history being tossed into the trash. Occasionally he spotted people digging through the hazardous waste looking for treasures they thought they could restore. Just the thought of all the irreplaceable history being ruined brought a tear to his eye.
This particular home looked like it belonged to a younger couple, which usually didn’t have many heirlooms. He still expected to see someone crying over their photo albums, sofa or television.
Moroni turned to see a man in a dark blue polo with the FEMA logo on it holding a clipboard. “Can I help you?”
“Are you the homeowner?”
“No. I’m just a volunteer.”
“I’m the homeowner,” a woman in her early twenties said.
Moroni was surprised to hear her speak up as she’d been working alongside him during the last four homes they’d cleared. She acted more like an out-of-state volunteer than a neighbor. Although, now that he thought about it, she did seem to know several people here.
“Your name?” the FEMA worker asked.
The man wrote on his clipboard. “How do you spell Red?”
“And who else lived here with you?”
“Just my husband.”
“And, where is he?”
“Staying with his parents in Utah,” Patricia said. A tear formed on her cheek, the first sign of sadness she’d shown that day. “His flight home from his business trip was canceled.”
Moroni pondered this amazing woman as she gave her information to the FEMA worker. Here she was, throwing away nearly all her worldly goods, and the only thing that phased her was thinking about being separated from her husband.
The FEMA representative handed her a yellow piece of paper with instructions for filing a claim before moving on to the next house. Moroni knew those claims would only pay enough to fix most of the damage to the home, with little, if any, left over to replace everything else.
Moroni couldn’t keep his mind off her for the next several hours as they finished clearing her home of damaged items and moved on to the next house. When they took a break for dinner he finally approached her.
“I must say, I’m quite impressed,” Moroni said.
“With me?” Patricia asked.
“I can’t imagine why. You’re the one who picks up couches by yourself.”
He chuckled. “I’ve always been strong, physically. But I was impressed by your spiritual strength.”
“Most of these homeowners are devastated to lose all their worldly goods. Even I have a tough time throwing away a treasure from the Civil War or the Civil Rights Movement. Yet, you helped us clear several of your neighbors’ houses before you even entered your own home.”
She shook her head. “It’s not my home anymore. My husband’s job washed away with the flood from Hurricane Harvey. There’s no way we’ll be able to make the payments and make repairs. It was a house we lived in. We’ll eventually find another.”
Moroni smiled. “See? That’s what I’m talking about. That kind of eternal perspective is quite impressive. I’m a representative of Sanctuary Foods, and I’d like to invite you and your husband to consider applying for our leadership training program.” He held out his business card.
She looked down at the card for a moment before hesitantly taking it. “You’re a Native American right?”
“Hopi,” he corrected.
“And you’re working for a food company that sends you here to recruit people in a disaster zone?”
Moroni shook his head. “No. I’m on vacation and volunteering my time here. But when I see someone who feels right for our program, I can’t keep my mouth shut.”
“What kind of program?”
“We’re expanding our leadership training, and I think you’d be a good fit. I’m hoping your husband will be as
well, if he’s anything like you.”
She studied the card, then looked up at him. “How do I know this isn’t a scam?”
“Does it feel like a scam?” he asked.
“No . . .”
“Well, you don’t have to decide right now. Think about it, talk to your husband, and if it feels right, give me a call.”
She pocketed the card while she studied his face. “I’ve never met a man named Moroni before.”
He smiled. “It takes all kinds.”