“Grateful for everything, entitled to nothing”

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This is Jim McIngvale.  A man I had never heard of until yesterday.  AKA Mattress Mack. The Clarion-Ledger ran an article about him yesterday and that’s where I found the quote that is the title of today’s post. In today’s Durham Herald-Sun newspaper, I read an editorial from the Charlotte Observer. It touched me, so I thought that I should share it with all of you. My thoughts and prayers are with all of the people dealing with Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath.

Let’s talk about the human chain in Houston

Let’s talk about the chain. It was a human chain, on Interstate 10 in Houston on Tuesday afternoon.  A black woman holding the hand of a white man holding the hand of a Latino man, then more than a dozen others.

Moments before, they were strangers, until an elderly man’s SUV got swept up in floodwaters on the highway. Somebody said: “Let’s form a chain.” So they did, finding strength together against the waters, then reaching the man’s vehicle, then opening the door to pull him to safety.

Let’s talk about the millennials. A couple of them, Joe Looke and Daniel Webb, were watching the early devastation from Hurricane Harvey when they decided they wanted to do more than watch. So they found a dry spot at a Houston shopping center and put up a sign asking for donations.

Soon, as the Houston Chronicle reported, people came by with toilet paper and bottles of water. One man brought an armful of pizzas. Within hours, they had filled more than 30 SUVs with items to take to local shelters.

Let’s not talk, for a few moments, about our disagreements. Let’s not talk about politics or hate or climate change policy or whether someone was enough of a leader this week. These are legitimate debates, and we will surely have them soon enough.

Let’s talk about those who did lead this week, in their own way, no matter what you expect of them, no matter when you think of them. Let’s talk about the mosques throughout the Houston area that opened their doors for shelter without anyone asking them to. Let’s talk about the businessmen who decided to look past their bottom line.

One of them, Jim McIngvale, opened the doors to his Houston-area furniture emporium so that the suddenly homeless could have a place to stay and sleep. When 400-plus people straggled in, the man named “Mattress Mack” told them they should use the furniture on display. He’s not sure what he’ll do with that furniture when everything gets back to normal. Maybe have a Harvey Sale, or maybe just take a loss.

“To hell with profits,” he said. Let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about the law enforcement officers who risked their lives again and again for rescues. Let’s talk about the government officials turned shelter volunteers. And let’s also talk about the journalists- the supposed enemies of the people.

One of them, Brandi Smith of Houston’s KHOU, abandoned a live report to flag down sheriff’s deputies when she saw water filling the cab of a man’s tractor trailer. Another, from CNN, was preparing to go on air when he instead ran to a ravine with his cameraman to save a man floating in his truck. They, like so many others, rushed into danger with one thought in mind: help.

Yes, there were people who exploited this week’s tragedy. There were stores that gouged and scammers who preyed and looters who didn’t need the items they stole. There will always be those people among us- in tragedies and every other day- and many of them will get away with it. It’s up to us whether we want to spend our time worrying about being taken advantage of, or deciding that it’s worth the risk to help others who need it.

So let’s talk about the chain. The human chain. There were several of them this week- hands grabbing hands in floodwaters, because that’s what the moment demanded. No one asked if the hand they gripped was here illegally, or if that hand pushed a button to vote for Donald Trump. No one asked if the person needing saving could have avoided their situation in the first place.

It was simply people, kind and courageous and willing to sacrifice, because other people needed them.

Let’s talk about that this week. Let’s try to remember it when this week is over.

Can we do that? Can we just concentrate on helping and not criticizing? Is that too much to ask from Americans from North Carolina to Nebraska to New York? I don’t think so. I believe the vast majority of us have good hearts and want to help when we see our fellow human beings suffering. I am a glass-half-full kind of girl. Let’s donate if we can’t be there to help.

In searching for ways to help and where to send funds and donations, I found an article posted by NPR.  There are lists of organizations, broken into categories such as food banks, animals, elderly, medical, etc. Last week, I learned quite a bit about my local food bank, the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. My advisees and I, along with all of our 7th graders, volunteered at the Food Bank and spent the morning bagging sweet potatoes donated by a local farmer. It was dirty, smelly, deeply satisfying work. I plan to do more of it.

In light of those sweet potatoes, I will repost a recipe I love and made for Thanksgiving 2013!

Sweet Potato Biscuits
Dorie Greenspan’s Baking:  From My Home To Yours

Using canned sweet potatoes makes them easy to prepare at a moment’s notice.  I use canned sweet potatoes packed in light syrup– I just drain the potatoes and mash them with a fork.  If you’ve got leftover cooked sweet potatoes or yams, give them a good mashing, measure out 3/4 – 1 cup and you’re good to go.

Makes about 18 biscuits

2 c. all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. (packed) light brown sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3/4 stick (6 Tbsp.) cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
2 15-ounce cans sweet potatoes in light syrup, drained and mashed
Pinch of ground cinnamon or freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425˚F.

Get out a sharp 2 – 2 1/4-inch diameter biscuit cutter, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and spice, if you’re using it, together in a bowl.  Add the brown sugar and stir to incorporate it, making sure there are no lumps.  Drop in the butter and, using your fingers, toss to coat it with the flour.  Quickly, working with your fingertips (my favorite method) or a pastry blender, cut and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is pebbly.  You’ll have pea-size pieces, pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pieces the size of everything in between — and that’s just right.

Add the sweet potatoes to the bowl, grab a fork, and toss and gently turn the ingredients until you’ve got a nice soft dough.  Now reach into the bowl with your hands and give the dough a quick, gentle kneading — 3 or 4 turns should be just enough to bring everything together.

Lightly dust a work surface with flour and turn out the dough.  Dust the top of the dough very lightly with flour and pat the dough out with your hands or roll it with a pin until it is about 1/2 inch high. Don’t worry if the dough isn’t completely even — a quick, light touch is more important than accuracy.

Use the biscuit cutter to cut out as many biscuits as you can.  Try to cut the biscuits close to one another so you get the most you can out of this first round.  By hand or with a small spatula, transfer the biscuits to the baking sheet.  Gather together the scraps, working them as little as possible, pat out to a 1/2-inch thickness and cut as many additional biscuits as you can; transfer these to the sheet.  (The biscuits can be made to this point and frozen on the baking sheet, then wrapped airtight and kept for up to 2 months. Bake without defrosting — just add a couple more minutes to the oven time.)

Bake the biscuits for 14-18 minutes, or until they are puffed and golden brown.  Transfer them to a cooling rack — cooled a bit, they’re more sweet potatoey.  Give them 10-15 minutes on the rack before popping them into a basket and serving.

Serving:
Unlike most biscuits, there are best served after they’ve had a little time to cool.  They are as good at brunch (they’re great with salty ham and bacon) as they are at tea (try them with a light cheese spread and / or marmalade.)   Or have them with butter or jam, fruit butter or fruit compote.

Storing:
You can keep the biscuits in a plastic bag overnight and give them a quick warm-up in the oven the next day, but you won’t recapture their freshly made flakiness.

Bon appétit to all glass-half-fullers and helpers out there. I am indeed “grateful for everything, entitled to nothing,” too, Mattress Mack. Thank you to all who have and will lend a helping hand in whatever way they see fit and are able.

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