The hotel parking lot. Early afternoon. He was packing his truck. Slamming toolbox lids. Reorganizing luggage in the rear cab. Iowa plates.
I’ve never met anyone from Iowa before. Or if I have, chances are they were so timid I don’t remember them.
Midwesterners, in my experience, are quieter than your average folks. They don’t enter a room like my people. Yelling, laughing, clapping everyone’s backs like a politician or a manure salesman.
They are humble people. Reserved. Kindhearted, but very hesitant to give away a free hug. In other words: they are Lutheran.
This man was late forties. Wearing denim and boots. Quiet disposition. He talked a little like Jimmy Stewart.
His wife was with him. Reddish hair. Pretty. They looked like they just stepped off the alfalfa farm. Good people.
I noticed the gas cans and chainsaws in the back of his truck. The entire bed of his Ford was weighted in heavy equipment.
The truck was towing an enclosed trailer with even more gear loaded inside. Lawn mowers, Weed Eaters, hedge trimmers, chains, axes, you name it.
There were garbage bags full of secondhand clothes, boxes of diapers, and baby formula.
“I’m on my way to Fort Myers, Florida,” he said.
I asked what a mild mannered Iowan was doing traveling to Florida after a Category 4 hurricane had just struck.
He shrugged. “Way I figure, what Florida people need is help. I got the tools, I got the time, so I thought, why not?”
His wife added, “It’s what we’d want people to do for us.”
I can’t help but feel like heel. I am a Floridian. And yet I have never—not once in my life—traveled to Iowa after a tornado to help tornado victims. I’ve never asked myself what I can do to help blizzard victims.
“You must have family in Florida,” I said.
That must be why he was going.
He shook his head. “Nope.”
“Friends?” I asked.
Another head shake.
“We just wanted to come,” said his wife. “We just really wanted to help.”
He is a farmer. He raises wheat. He comes from a long line of farmers. A long, long line.
“In Iowa,” says the man, “growing up, when something goes wrong, everyone helps each other.”
He tells a story. His grandfather’s barn burned to the ground in the 1930s, the height of the Depression. The fire spread to his grandfather’s home. The farmhouse burned down, too.
His grandfather had nothing left but a charred lawn and the family dog.
“He lost nearly ever’thin’” said the man, as he covered his truck in a tarp. “Grandpa was destitute overnight.”
But that’s where his story gets good.
Because the next morning, a cavalcade of wagons and buckboards came loping up the long Iowan highway.
Local men drove horse-drawn carts, weighted with fresh lumber. Women sat on tailgates of Model A trucks, carrying picnic baskets, casseroles, and wrapped cakes.
The wagons circled. The local men unloaded pinewood by the metric ton. The sounds of hammers filled the air. The rhythmic sounds of handsaws, razing across long spears of lumber.
The community rebuilt a brand new home in only four days. Then they built a new barn. A new fence. And they replanted crops, too.
“People loaned my grandfather everything he needed,” the man said. “They rebuilt his life, nobody charged him a dime. It’s just what we do.”
Every woman in the community gave the needy family single dish. The family had an entire collection of mismatched china, which the young man still owns today.
“It wasn’t about what they did,” said the man, “it was about who they were. That’s the kind of man I want to be. I don’t want to be a taker, I want to be a giver.”
But this all happened a long time ago, I reminded him. America isn’t like that anymore. People don’t give to each other without sticking their hands out in return.
These days people aren’t selfless and self-sacrificial. They are self-promoting and self-important. For cripes sake, doesn’t this man watch the news?
But the man just looked at me and smiled. He clapped my shoulder. “Man, you really need to come to Iowa sometime.”
I take back everything I said about Lutherans.
Dennis - October 1, 2022 8:57 am
Sean, love the message behind the story. I wish it wasn’t apocryphal. I grew up in Iowa. I don’t know if there is a single wheat field in the entire state. Maybe at Iowa State they have a research field of wheat. Next time make the Iowa farmer a corn or soybean farmer. There literally tons of those in Iowa.
Laura W - October 1, 2022 9:38 am
I have people in Iowa and MN. They are loud, laughing huggers. My nieces, nephews, cousins and brothers all make quite an entrance to a room. Maybe because they were Presbyterians growing up. My sister-in-law the actual Lutheran is the quietest of the bunch….
Audra S Isenhour - October 1, 2022 10:35 am
Opps, maybe I’m in the wrong place here. I am not from Iowa, I don’t raise crops, just make quilts, but last week I went to a big box store to buy bird seed and dog food. Both weighed in at 40 pounds. I loaded them in my cart, got them into my trunk and realized I was going to have to do the reverse when I reached home. I am 75 years old, weigh in at 140 pounds and I was surrounded by men and women who just walked past during my struggle. I’m used to it. At my next stop I saw a man about 45 who had injured one arm trying to push a roll of carpet into his pickup truck. I asked him if he needed help and he looked stunned! He explained that I was the only one to offer help…so I helped. I was raised to be a hugger and a helper. I help little old ladies and gentlemen whenever I can, I plan to live long enough to get old. 😉
Cheryl - October 1, 2022 11:09 am
Having lived through a few hurricanes, one that flattened our community, it was the unconditional generosity of the Helpers that gave us reason to hope again. No matter, what they grow—wheat, corn, or hope, there’s some pretty amazing kind-hearted people in this world.
Renee Welton - October 1, 2022 11:31 am
Wonderful reminder of what we used to be…and still need to be💞
Tina M Aufranc - October 1, 2022 11:38 am
That’s correct. Lutherans quietly serving, no fanfare, no desire to be recognized. Just doing what our Lord has mandated. That’s how we roll.
ALLEN - October 1, 2022 11:55 am
I am NOW planning a visit to Iowa!
Melissa J Norman - October 1, 2022 11:58 am
I have been wondering where to give some money to help the Florida “Crackers” (as we call you people) in your time of need. I have an aunt and uncle who live near Tampa and they happened to be staying in Michigan with us as Ian was building up last week. All kinds of their relatives were taking cover in their beautiful home as respite from their individual mobile homes. Last count there would be about 8 shirt-tail relatives and a couple of their friends holed up in their home. My aunt & uncle were detouring to see the Ark and then on to Mississippi to other relatives homes as theirs would be too full and in unknown condition. We here in Michigan have been praying for all of the Floridians. We do hope you are able to get the state back in shape by the beginning of January as we are heading your way for our first annual winter vacation. God is Blessing Florida and All of America! Got to go now and call my relatives for an update on their home and relatives. Thanks for great story. We love your stories!
John - October 1, 2022 12:19 pm
Politician, manure salesman. Same thing. But you knew that.
Lucretia Jones - October 1, 2022 12:26 pm
This truth has added to my day and made me most appreciative. So thankful for the farmer and his wife from Iowa. So thankful you have shared their story, Sean. Lucretia
Susan Hatfield - October 1, 2022 1:01 pm
Now write one about Texans. They are the same way, the way they come together for each other for any and everything is amazing. You should have seen the miles of trucks, trailers etc after Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Literally miles. And this year, the wildfires that ate up much of southwest and central Texas, firefighters from all over Texas, (and maybe Iowa too) came in droves to risk life and limb to help their neighbors. Texans are the most generous souls I have ever seen. And I’m from Georgia, transplanted in 1996, and so I’m not biased!
conlonlisa3 - October 1, 2022 2:02 pm
What a good heartwarming story!👋👋😊
Suellen - October 1, 2022 1:08 pm
Being the wife of a Lutheran Pastor I approve this message.
Patricia Gibson - October 1, 2022 1:28 pm
God bless them and safe travels 🙏
Donna Hipps - October 1, 2022 1:39 pm
i’m from Iowa and enjoyed this piece. It is so true of Iowans. But the farmer would be raising corn, not wheat
Pete Tucker - October 1, 2022 1:56 pm
sjhl7 - October 1, 2022 1:57 pm
Just …. beautiful in every way!
Sean of the South: The Helpers | The Trussville Tribune - October 1, 2022 2:01 pm
[…] By Sean Dietrich, Sean of the South […]
Harriet - October 1, 2022 2:10 pm
Wow! What a wonderful story! So glad you shared. We need to hear about the good people in our country!
Anne Godwin - October 1, 2022 2:17 pm
There are still places like that. If you’ve ever been through a hurricane, you know the devastation. Thanks for always showing us that there are good people in this world.
I’m trying to ignore the negative people. You know, do not return evil with evil.
Ed Colvin - October 1, 2022 3:03 pm
Thank you. I am going to use this in a Sunday School lesson tomorrow. Hope you don’t mind.
Stacey Wallace - October 1, 2022 3:41 pm
Thanks for this wonderful story, Sean. May God bless that selfless man and woman from Iowa. As bad as things are, remember that the good people still outnumber the bad, and not just in Iowa. And in Sweet Home Alabama, too. Love to you, Jamie, and Marigold.
Joyce Owens Byrd - October 1, 2022 4:00 pm
I smiled at your comment about the Midwest and Lutheran’s. My cousin, who I love dearly, lives in Illinois and is a Lutheran. She raises comfort dogs. They visit hospitals, nursing homes, and sites of devastation to help the stressed out folks. I’m from the south and not very helpful I’m ashamed to admit. General terms since I moved a lot.
David Britnell - October 1, 2022 4:11 pm
I am from Arkansas and I am aged 72. I know I fit in the category but still don’t think of myself as “old.” Recently while at a high school football game it began to rain and since I was tired I decided to go home. Truthfully I was a little nervous about navigating the wet steps down the bleachers because my one big fear is falling. A young man about 18-19 that I have seen at my church came up behind me and asked if I needed help and because of my stupid pride I said naw’ I’m ok. I have kicked myself several times for refusing such a nice gesture. The next time I saw him at church I thanked him for thinking of helping me out and about my stupid pride thing!
I know this was a rabbit trail off the main subject of your story Sean but I was just so proud to know there are still some very decent young folks out there. Thank you Andrew!!
Sue Cummings - October 1, 2022 4:48 pm
Pubert - October 1, 2022 5:58 pm
GOOD ‘Urn, Sean!. I love the South, but we could all stand a lot more of what those Hawkeyes are putting down. You know the story’s good when it leaves your eyes waterrng…
MAM - October 1, 2022 6:07 pm
Never having traveled to Iowa, I don’t know what they grow there, but I’ve knows mid-westerners and, by and large, they are good people. And my mother-in-law was Lutheran. I figure anyone who has faith in God is good folk!
Sean of the South: The Helpers – Freedom Truck Lines - October 1, 2022 6:09 pm
[…] By Sean Dietrich, Sean of the South […]
Rebecca Soude4rs - October 1, 2022 6:12 pm
Lutherans create some of the best sacred music you will ever hear…. and they have the best beer at their parties! Good words today, Sean Dietrich.
Donna Coen - October 1, 2022 6:17 pm
Thank you for always providing inspiration. I am humbled.
Nancy Brown - October 1, 2022 6:41 pm
Great story! We’ve been through our share of hurricanes here on the Gulf Coast of Alabama, and help always appears. Out of nowhere, and from everywhere, good people show up.
Pat - October 1, 2022 7:01 pm
Karen - October 1, 2022 7:55 pm
America is full of helpers. Unfortunately, the media prefers to show the worst of people, except the last few minutes of the news.
Linda Moon - October 1, 2022 8:40 pm
In my neighborhood in 2022 people still give. Why, the new neighbors who moved in brought homemade cookies to me. I thought it was supposed to be the other way around here in the Deep South. So, now I’d like to visit with some Iowans…maybe there at the Music Man Square!
Kathy - October 2, 2022 12:10 am
Karen Snyder - October 2, 2022 2:46 am
Sandra Mosolgo - October 2, 2022 11:32 am
I’m not a real emotional person but once again Sean made me cry. It is an encouragement in dark days to know there are still givers. My church family is full of those who serve others in the name of Christ. His people are in many places.
Vi Augustine - October 2, 2022 1:04 pm
Sounds familiar but then Nebraska is pretty much another Iowa
Sandi. - October 3, 2022 7:54 am
With tears in my eyes I want to thank you, Sean, for highlighting the wonderful couple from Iowa heading to southwest Florida. I live 15 miles from Ft. Myers and the devastation and destruction in all of Lee County caused by Hurricane Ian is almost unfathomable. Everywhere you look there are downed stop signs, street signs, traffic lights, houses, mailboxes, trees, vehicles underwater. Debris is scattered hither and yon. It looks like a war zone out of a horror movie, only worse. Describing the damage is like trying to tell somebody what salt tastes like. I am sincerely grateful that my adult children and their families, as well as my friends and neighbors are safe. Sheltering-in-place during a major hurricane is traumatic, stressful, eerie, terrifying, challenging, and almost overwhelming. My home was not damaged except for some lost window screens and rain water seeping beneath two sets of sliding glass doors. The back yard is full of numerous broken tree branches, shrubbery, plus grey shingles from the next door neighbor’s roof . Had no running water or electricity for four days, but I’m one of the fortunate ones, as there are still many without power in this hot, humid weather where we all depend on air-conditioning or electric fans. A hearty, sincere THANKS and ABUNDANT BLESSINGS to all the first responders and people coming in to offer help from Iowa and elsewhere. God will bring something good from all this serious damage. I do want to seriously remind everyone to please hug your loved ones on a regular basis, tell them you care, appreciate and love them. We never know for certain when a disaster will take place. To those who read this, if you’re a praying person, please remember those who lost their homes to this big monster of a storm.
Pubert - October 3, 2022 8:33 am
Hey Sandi. Great post. You captured the essence of “being there.” Even up here in L A. we have gotten a taste of these big hurricanes like Ivan that put 5 big pine trees through our roof in the middle of the night with no power. darkness. Amdnd us sitting in the cellar with 6″ of water. 2 cats and 2 dogs, our 6 yo and winds blowing these trees around at 80 mph. I can’t imagine what you went through! God bless you!
Sandi. - October 3, 2022 5:04 pm
Hi Pubert, and sincere thanks for your input. Reading about how Hurricane Ivan hit your area of LA. in 2004 causing damage to your home when those big pine trees crashed through your roof had to have been frightening and catastrophic. Thankfully you lived to tell about it! God bless and protect you from any and all future storms in life.
Cheryl Gartner - October 3, 2022 4:09 pm
I was born and raised on a farm in Nebraska. And I was raised Lutheran. You painted a beautiful picture of life there. Thank you!
Brant Riley - October 3, 2022 4:24 pm
What a great story as well as a great example. Thanks.
DT - October 4, 2022 7:06 pm
As a lifelong Lutheran and a longtime Sean of the South fan, this column blessed my heart. Keep ‘‘em coming Sean. Roll Tide
Robyn - October 6, 2022 4:02 pm
Truly love this story and proud to say I spent my first 63 years in beautiful Iowa!! Made a permanent move to Florida 3 years ago. It’s been a good move for me but a large piece of my heart will always belong to Iowa!
Dennis - October 6, 2022 5:47 pm
Iowa: a good place to from. Far from. 🙂