Hello humankindness. Most of us have probably seen those heart-warming TV spots showing acts of compassion, both great and small. It’s likely no coincidence that these reminders of our innately kind nature are circulating now, during these decisively un-kind times. Sometimes, though, chance incidents provide an opportunity for humanity at its best to shine.
Iqbal Bains, who lives in Fresno, is a third-year law student at Clovis’ San Joaquin College of Law. Like the rest of us, he watched in dismay as the scenes of ruin and otherworldly devastation unfolded in Texas on the TV screen at the gym.
He had seen similar reports on the massive flooding of Sri Lanka, but the situation in Texas seemed even worse. It was the stories coming out of the smaller towns, like Beaumont, Rosenberg, and Rockport that struck a chord.
“The people in the smaller towns needed a lifeline,” he said. “I felt it was my duty, as a fellow American and as a human being, to heed that call and do what I could.”
Bains called his friends and said simply, “I’m going to Houston, do you want to come?”
He wasn’t surprised at their replies, “When do we leave?”
What began as a quest to fill Bains’ Ram 1500 truck and a 6-by-2 foot trailer hitched to the back became a whole lot more than he could have imagined.
“My friends Varinder, Manpreet and I agreed we would not go with anything less than a full trailer – that we would fill it on our own if we had to.”
But they didn’t have to. Through word of mouth and a video posted on Instagram about their mission, the folks of Fresno donated by the truckload.
“Not one person came with only one or two goods,” Bains marveled. “They came with vehicles filled with supplies. That’s the thing with Fresnans. They have big hearts and are willing to help their fellow man/woman.”
As Bains’ odyssey unfolded, it quickly swelled into three semi-trucks from Fresno and a coordinated effort with others in Sacramento who sent another three filled with supplies. The operation and arrangements seemed to live and breathe on their own: a logistics manager’s dream.
Bains says the key to the lightening-quick feat was a truck driver named Ishmeet Dhillon, the owner of Anyway Logistics of Fresno. Answering the request for transportation of the growing pile of goods, Dhillon provided his semi-truck and his driving crew at no charge to deliver that first load. He wouldn’t even take payment for the gas.
With the first truck of goods under way, Bains and his friends piled into his wife’s Prius and hit the road bound for Texas. Without taking the time to think through pesky details, they realized once they hit Tulare, that Houston was still 30 hours away. That’s when they Googled “cheap flights to Texas.”
After dropping off the Prius in Nevada and hopping a flight to Austin, the group borrowed a friend’s van and drove the rest of the way to Houston. They arrived at 11 p.m. that night, and found the situation heart wrenching.
“It’s the impoverished neighboring communities that need the most help,” Bains said. Items like feminine products, cleaning supplies, canned foods, baby supplies and hand sanitizer are all in very short supply.
In Rosenberg, a church pastor named Pastor Chris helped Bains and his friends distribute their offerings.
“This was not a religious thing,” Bains insists. “It was anybody/everybody giving in Fresno, and everyone/anyone who was in need, receiving in Texas,” he said. In addition to goods and supplies, gift cards and money donations poured as well. The Punjabi Cultural Association of Fresno collected over $20,000, in just three days.
Of supreme importance to Bains and crew was complete transparency of their entire operation. He made sure to post photos and information as they worked about where the goods were going, and how they got there. It was pure humanitarian aid at its finest.
Having left for Texas on a Friday, and returning at 3 a.m. the following Tuesday morning, Bains was back on campus and in class as usual. Good on you, Bains and Co. Good on you.
Diane Skouti is the alumni coordinator for the San Joaquin College of Law in Clovis. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.