Saturday, June 30, 2018

Scattered Debris, Scattered Thoughts

A tornado ripped through a neighboring town just a few nights ago.  Imagine the heartache, loss, time, effort, sweat, tears and rebuilding that comes after a tornado.

Now imagine if this was the second tornado to hit a town in less than two years.

I feel like the town was just getting back to 'normal', whatever that may be, and you could drive down most streets without being able to tell where obvious damage had occurred on July 7, 2016.  Now I can honestly say that you can drive down most streets and not tell where damage occurred two years ago... mostly because the area was either hit again by the most recent tornado, or because the neighboring damage is so severe.  (It is a pitiful attempt at humor, I realize.  But if you don't laugh at the little things you cry.)

I don't mean to speak on behalf of anyone that actually rode out the storm or the countless volunteers that have spent many, many more hours than I in the devastation; I just wanted to put my thoughts to paper.


When you speak to someone about the tornado and resulting devastation, oftentimes they will look into the distance I've found.  Their eyes might dart around as they rescan the area in their imagination and try to take in the enormity of what they saw.

I was on a clean up crew next to an old man.  He had a cane in one hand and a rake in the other and could not, would not, be deterred.  That is the love and servant's heart he had.  He felt he HAD to work and help clean up.

We would walk up to a house/garage/yard and the enormity of the cleanup task at hand would seem too daunting.  Just a few hours later we would walk away and only a concrete slab would be left.  It is true that many hands make light work.  The crew I was with only had shovels and wheel barrows.  Some of the crews on blocks next to us had skid steers and you can only imagine the large scale dent they were able to make.  They would clear away collapsed porches and garages and huge trees with root balls much greater than 10 feet in diameter.

I made friends with a man on our clean up crew.  He drove a 1960's station wagon from two hours away to help.  He packed extra clothes and had a cooler in the back filled with Gatorade and enough for him to enjoy three beers every night.  There was a sticker in his side window that said, "My kid sells term papers to your Honor Student."  He was hilarious and helped lighten everyone's mood.

About every 15 minutes it seemed, volunteers would drive by on four wheelers and UTV's.  They had coolers strapped on the back and made sure everyone stayed hydrated with water and Gatorade.  One even had a pallet of cheezit boxes and passed them out as snacks to each team.

Hardware stores from near and far have donated supplies and teams of people to come help.

Meals are being fed to anyone involved with the tornado, be it that you are a victim or volunteer or electrical lineman.  If you come, they will feed you.  They remind me of Jesus feeding the masses.  The hungry masses file through the door and somehow, the food just keeps coming.  I watched barbecue trucks pull up and noticed that their tags were from western Kansas.  That means they drove HOURS just to help out.  Restaurants from neighboring towns have shown up with hundreds of meals at a time.  Church ladies from neighboring towns have shown up with pan after pan of stick-to-your-ribs goodies.  4-H members from the area have contributed with food and serving meals.

Yesterday as I was eating my lunch, a friend manning the kitchen walked up to me, her eyes popping out of her head.  "You won't believe this.  There is a truck on it's way here with 10,000 pounds of smoked brisket."  TEN. THOUSAND. POUNDS.  You read that right.

I sat and ate my lunch at a table by myself one day.  It gave me time to look around and really take in the enormity of it all.  I glanced to my right and watched an old, old man who volunteered on the team I was on.  He had just worked five hours picking up debris in 100 degree heat.  Sweat was dripping off his forehead as bowed his head and prayed over the meal that was about to nourish his body.  The meal that had been prepared with love by someone who donated it from the goodness of their heart.  With tears in my eyes I pulled by gaze from him and looked straight ahead at the table not four feet in front of me.  There was a mother with two small children on her lap.  It was obvious that she was not a volunteer but a victim of this terrible storm.  She finished her meal and stood up to leave.  With a huge smile and tears in her eyes she told her fellow diners, "Thanks for listening to my story."  There was no holding back tears after I heard that.

Time and time again during the past few days while working with 'professional volunteers' (the disaster recovery teams that travel the country helping in devastated areas) they said that they had never seen a response quite like this.  They were amazed by the amount of local volunteers, and especially in the amount of large equipment that volunteers brought with them - skid steers, dump trucks, backhoes.

The cowboys came.

The shaved heads with multicolored mohawks came.

The Mennonites came.

The tattoos over 80% of their bodies came.

The good ol' boys with long hair and a beer in their hand came.

The mamas with babies on their hips came.

The youth pastors came.

The teams upon teams of volunteers affiliated with many disaster relief associations from across the country came.

Everyone has come and everyone has helped in their own special way.  It may not be my hometown that was devastated, but this is still part of my home.  Thank you is not enough, but thank you is all we have.

One yard cleaned, so many to go.

The first morning after the tornado I began to make biscuits to feed volunteers.  The boys were so excited to help in their own little way.  Those biscuits were made with love, I assure you. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

If I Had A Nickel... (Symphony in the Flint Hills)

If I had a nickel for every hour I spent around a covered wagon in my life, I'd have a lot of dang nickels.

If I had a nickel for every hour I spent around 'second dads' like him, I'd have a lot of dang nickels. 

If I had a nickel for every time I helped hitch a team growing up... 

...Every time I saw them make this familiar circle and back up to the front of the wagon...

If I had a nickel for every hour I got to shoot the breeze with our Amish friends....

...Or hear these two shoot the breeze...

If I had a nickel for every time I considered sticking my head in right next to my horse and getting a big drink of cool water also...

If I had a nickel for every time I ended a day by following a covered wagon off into the sunset... I'd have a rich life indeed.  This life may not fill the piggy bank but it fills the soul. 

 For more information regarding Symphony in the Flint Hills, click here.  Also, you can click on any of the photos in this post to enlarge.  (I highly recommend enlarging the first photo of the wagons as it is a panoramic shot.)