After ten days off work and most things normal, I am back. It is hard to know where to start. I had so much to do before I left on that stormy Wednesday afternoon and now as I sit at my deceivingly neat desk, I know the pile is even higher. But I chastise myself for complaining. My home and my life are still intact, which is much more than I can say for so many others. It will take much more than ten days for their lives to get back to normal. For some, maybe even a lifetime.
On Thursday of last week, I went out to help. I ended up at the home of an older couple who had lost their daughter to the tornadoes. She had been at their home when the first one at 11:00am came through. It had ripped apart trees and piled them all in her parents' backyard, covering an above-ground pool, a deck, a pool house, and several sheds. The trees came all the way to the back porch, damaging the roof of the house. After it passed, the daughter was afraid so she left their house and went to her grandmother's home. When another round of tornadoes came through at 4:00pm, she was killed and her grandmother was sent to the hospital.
The couple had spent the last few days at the funeral home preparing for the funeral and could not even begin to think about the devastation in their backyard. That is where we came in. It felt really good to be a part of that. After working there for a few hours, we moved down the street to help a lady who had mostly trees down all over her yard. She'd been working at it for hours, with minimal progress being only one. With two chainsaws and many willing hands we took over and in a little over an hour, most of the debris had been dragged to the street for pick-up.
As I drove home that afternoon, I felt good about the work that had been done but also like I hadn't even touched the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. I wrote checks and shopped for supplies but...compared to the totality of the damage and loss, my donations didn't seem like even a drop in the bucket. And then there's the bigger issue of lives and families lost. These things can't be fixed with chainsaws and checks written.
I have heard amazing stories. Stories of people hidden in a closet or under the stairs, and when they came out, all that was standing was the place where they were. Children claimed to have been protected by "the man with wings" or someone who told them not to be afraid. As my very own niece and nephew took shelter in a bathroom with my sister, when asked if they wanted her to pray, my niece responded, "more than anything." These stories touch my heart and strengthen my faith.
The Scarlett O'Hara part of me wants to get on with my life. I want to feel happy and carefree. I don't like sadness and heartache. I don't like it when people hurt, when people fight or argue or lose people they love. My first response to all of this is to run as far away from it as possible, where all is happy and normal again. To think about it all later. So I've had to force myself to look at this right in the face. To allow the fear and uncertainty and sadness inside and then to figure out what to do with it. It took all the courage I could summon to drive to the church and ask where I could go work. I felt ashamed of that. I knew this was a time to put fears aside and get out there and help.
Despite the fact that my home and life are still intact after these 10 days, I know things inside have changed. Every time I start to complain or whine about something, I am stopped by thinking of those who would love to face the small inconveniences and perceived stresses I'm facing. I've had to face some things about myself I didn't realize were there, such as fear of pain and sadness. I've found a good bit of selfishness that needs to be rooted out and a good bit of faith that needs to be built upon.
There's really no conclusion to this post, as I hope the things in the above paragraph are ongoing. I hope God shows me opportunities to give, to help and to love, and that He forgives me for the ones I miss. I hope to take from all of this more courage and faith for the next round of storms that come, in whatever form they may take.