Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Praying for free firewood



It happens every autumn. I get about four or five e-mails that make me feel like a real jerk.
Hold on. That’s not true. I get about four or five e-mails a day that make me feel like a real jerk. These are stinging rejections, editorial insults and frequent reminders that I voluntarily signed up for Facebook.
So, I lied. Now I feel like a real jerk.
Again.
But the e-mail I got Monday goes beyond that. 
See, I always feel like a jerk whenever anyone gets in touch about free firewood. My website, www.chrisrodell.com boasts I am the world’s leading purveyor of free firewood.
I’ve written about it enough that I won’t regurgitate all the details here, save to say the canard is built around the line: “Free Firewood! Don’t let the other guys fool you . . . this stuff really DOES grow on trees!”

It's a blunt joke I explained in this "Free firewood a shady deal" post.


It makes me wonder just how much free stuff is out there if someone really thinks to google “free firewood,” and that there’s a guy in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, a writer, who in his spare time will send free firewood to any address in North America.
But I got a letter Phoenix Marie (last name withheld) in Evanston, Illinois, that makes me wish I could drop everything I was doing to ensure she’d never be without something to warm heart and hearth.
Check it out:
“Dear Mr. Rodell,
I have no idea if this is still a real offer, or if it was ever real in the first place.
I’m writing because my sig. other and I were recently privileged and incredibly lucky enough to find and move into a beautiful 100 yr-old apartment finally large enough to have breathing room AND gifted with a working fireplace (that was shockingly in our price range). It was a result of years of me praying and a very rare combination of a rental company too lax to require deposits or offer the care and maintenance that ups the rent and validates the deposit’s existence, and a ‘lifer’ maintenance man whose undying love for the aging building provides a safe enough environment for tenants to burn wood in their living rooms and pretend that they exist in a much higher income bracket than they really do.

Still unsure of how we managed to live in such splendor, we’ve been musing how to find free firewood for the time we’ve now entered between the predictable extreme Chicago temperature drop and the management’s delayed motivation to crank up the free radiator heat. Even under normal circumstances given our incomes, finding funds for firewood would be a challenging adventure, but as of late, I face a life-threatening illness without insurance and can’t work, so have been reduced to begging for donations and holding charity auctions to maintain the medical treatment I need to recover and avoid happy outcomes like permanent brain damage and a weakened heart. So, wallets are tight, psyches are strained, and being a stranger in town, I left the hunt up to google. I found your blog and several references to your free firewood giveaways, though all the dates I found attached to said information were long gone by. I wanted to get very excited and make high-pitched giggly sounds, but I’m wary.

Are you still shipping people free firewood anywhere in the U.S.? Could this be real, and are you the firewood fairy, so to speak? A firewood angel? Isn’t it grossly expensive to ship something so very heavy? We are one week shy of taking to the nearest forest preserve with a Phillips head screwdriver and a butcher knife (it’s one of those ‘Ginsu’ jobbers, cuts through tin cans like they were butter). It would be much easier on our psyches and my health if you were still sending people free firewood. This would be like a crazy dream come true. Please if you have time, let me know if this is still possible. We could name our next pet after you, or better yet, erect a Chris Rodell shrine above our mantle in your honor!

Cold, anxious, and curiously yours,

Phoenix Marie
It’s one of the nicest letters I’ve ever received. It exudes joy, hope and mirth in spite of what are clearly difficult situations.
She described everything I aspire to be. I’d love to be a firewood fairy. I’d love to play Santa and drop down cold chimneys with sacks full of oak, cherry and other hard woods so needy people could wake up Christmas morning and wouldn’t have to burn furniture for fuel.
Then before I had time to respond, she wrote back a sheepish note that she got the joke. There is no free firewood. She actually apologized to me for having distracted me..
Boy, do I feel like a jerk.
I may have failed at providing firewood, but I can wrangle prayers with the best of them.
I’m going to say a few small fast prayers that the winter is mild and God will help people like Phoenix get through the bitter days with her hope and joy intact. I ask you to do the same.
Can you imagine how beautiful a person who writes a note like that would be with her health intact and her earthly concerns allayed? She made my day even as I dashed hers.
During a friendly exchange, she confided without whining that her need is great. Friends have set up a webpage http://hachimanwebdesign.com/phoenixmarie.html. It’s poignant enough to qualify for Lifetime movie consideration.


A Facebook support page has been set up, too: http://www.facebook.com/pages/I-SUPPORT-THE-MEDICAL-EXPENSE-FUNDRAISER-FOR-PHOENIX-MARIE/325263728918
I checked them out and they look legit. I wish I didn’t have to include that legalistic sort of endorsement, but we have to be wary these days.
We all know the internet is awash with real jerks posing as firewood fairies and it’s difficult to find anything pure enough to believe in.


4 comments:

Anonymous said...
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Susan Graham said...

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Rodell said...

You're welcome, Susan! I'm confused about how it was helpful, but I'm glad it was.

Best,

Chris

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Thanks for sharing this useful information with all of us.Keep sharing more in the future.Have a nice time ahead.

Susan Graham