Earlier this month, as Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm, was making a beeline for Florida, I grew concerned for my IT instructors living in the Miami area. Fortunately, most came through without too much damage. The rest of the state wasn’t as fortunate. As the storm rolled northward, the devastation and flooding became horrific. The preliminary damage estimate for the U.S. already exceeds $50 billion.
After the storm passed, I reached out to my Florida instructors to see how they had fared. One of them is Charlie Thompson, a mainstay at Middleburg High School in Middleburg, Fla. If you don’t know where Middleburg is, then you’re not the only one. Situated about 45 minutes southwest of Jacksonville, Middleburg still has that quaint small-town America feel.
Charlie and I have chewed the fat many times; talking about the area’s population growth, his recently completed man-cave, his IT students, and his love of fishing. I have a standing invite, whenever I’m in town, to get out on the river and join Charlie in drowning some worms. (I’ll be there in January, and he tells me the trout will be running thick.)
I managed to reach Charlie by phone. He let me know that he and his wife were well, but that their house had flooded — and it wasn’t just water in the basement. By “flooded,” Charlie meant “water to the roof line.” Once the storm was passed, Charlie took his boat back to the house to assess the damage. He was grateful that he and his wife had gotten out safely, and were even able to salvage a few treasured possessions, including his wife’s Bible.
Speaking with Charlie about his loss, I was amazed that he was his usual positive self. If anything, he was more concerned about his neighbor, who didn’t have flood insurance, and what would happen to their home.
During our conversation, Charlie told me that many of his former students had reached out to him immediately after the storm. They were all asking how they could help. For more than 20 years, Charlie has been teaching these kids and helping them launch (and excel in) their IT careers. These former students never doubted his concern and commitment to them, and they are all ready to help him in any way they can. It was great to hear how moved Charlie was at the offers for help.
Oftentimes, we don’t realize the impact our actions have on the lives of other people. Over the course of his teaching career, Charlie has mentored thousands of students. In doing so, he made time for them and now they’re making time for him. There is a strong sense of community, mutual respect, and honest concern for others in Middleburg because of good people like Charlie.
Natural disasters have a way of bringing people together. From all over the country, communities are reaching out to alleviate suffering and help repair lives damaged by Irma's ferocity. Whether it is through financial donations, service projects of cleaning up after the storms, or just looking out for neighbors who need help, people have come together in wonderful ways.
I’m fortunate to work for a company that enables me to work with people like Charlie and his students. TestOut’s goal is to make a difference. Every day when I come to work, I know I can be a part of making a difference in a teacher’s classroom, in a student’s learning environment, and in the lives of people who will use our products to improve their situations and learning.
I believe in karma. Put out something positive today, and see what begins to happen around you.
About the Author — Travis Wilde is the Southeast U.S. High School Account Manager for TestOut Corporation. He is a graduate of Utah Valley University and Brigham Young University. When not helping IT instructors, he loves spending time with his amazing wife, Sally, and their five children. Travis enjoys most everything his children do: baseball, Irish dancing, tennis, and flag football. When he has a minute for himself, he enjoys getting lost in a good book, cooking, or skiing. One of his most prized accomplishments is teaching his children to love winter sports — boys ski and girls snowboard!