For the next installment of the Wisdom from Wibaux blog series, “Bear one another’s burdens,” I want to share the story of the Nix family.
I will never forget one summer’s day after completing my fourth grade. As mentioned last week, I grew up on a hobby farm until the eighth grade. I had to use my imagination to come up with something fun to do because my mother was clear it was not her job to entertain me. So I played outside a lot when the weather was nice.
A Cry for Help
It was almost three in the afternoon when suddenly I heard an unfamiliar voice screaming, “Help!” Over and over the obviously older voice was crying out for help. I looked toward the sound, coming from our neighbor’s house a quarter mile away.
As I listened intently for who was screaming for help, I saw black billowing smoke rising high into the air, rapidly filling the sky. I immediately knew the voice was coming from Pappy. Our neighbors, Joe and Julia Nix, invited Joe’s dad, whom we called Pappy, to live with them. During the day, Joe and Julia were at their retail store, Wibaux Dry Goods. They sold clothing and coats and worked very hard to make a living. The house had caught fire with Pappy home alone and he was trapped.
I ran to tell my mother and she called the Volunteer Fire Department. Then we drove as fast as we could to help Pappy. When we reached the Nix property, flames engulfed the house. Pappy was hanging out of a door afraid to move because he was nearly blind. We rescued Pappy from the house to safety as the volunteer firemen arrived. The look on Pappy’s face seared itself into my mind’s eye forever. I had never seen such a look of terror before. The next thing I remember is when Julia Nix arrived from the store. Somebody had gone to get her and brought her to the burning home. Just as Pappy had a look of fear, Julia had a look of total disbelief. I will never forget watching Julia tenderly care for Pappy as she cried like a baby, watching her possessions go up in flames.
Christmas Shopping at Wibaux Dry Goods
The fire was more than Julia could handle and she died a short time later as did Pappy. Joe moved to town, took over the store and struggled to do with the store what came so naturally for Julia. I learned by observation how, when tragedy strikes, a community comes together to support one another. But I experienced first-hand how my mother helped our neighbor Joe. It was Christmas, very wintry, as is typical for Montana (11 inches of snow is not unusual), and my mother informed me we were going Christmas shopping at the Wibaux Dry Goods. We arrived, walked in, and there was Joe, staffing the store. We were the only ones in the store that afternoon. My mother bought all of our Christmas gifts that year from Joe.
My mother’s generosity was not what surprised me. She was very generous. What surprised me was Joe’s reaction. He helped us carry the sacks of clothes we had purchased to the car. Once everything was in the car, Joe kissed my mother on the cheek and hugged her in the most appropriate, non-romantic sort of way. And then Joe started to cry and said, “Thank you so much for your support. It means so much to me in light of everything we have gone through.”
The Wisdom from Wibaux: Bear One Another’s Burdens
As we were driving off, I remember my mother and I discussing Joe and his reaction. The “Wisdom from Wibaux” imprinted itself into my soul that day: “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) Love of neighbor is more than a good idea. It is essential for a good and meaningful life!
Next week, the lesson I learned from Jim Kramer.
–Pastor Jeff Gannon