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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Our First Day Volunteering

The night the tornadoes roared across Alabama, we lost power not long after 5:30 p.m.

It will be on in a little while, I thought. Luckily we had a battery-operated clock radio which continued to feed us information. As the night went on, it didn't sound good. Apparently TVA had suffered some damage. Just before we went to bed we heard it could be 5-7 days before we had power.

5-7 days??!

When we awoke the next morning, that information was confirmed. The thought of living without power with two small children for 5-7 days seemed a daunting task so we decided to load up and head out of town.

Our first thought was to head to Tuscaloosa where my parents have a place. Remember, we hadn't watched television coverage since 5:30 p.m. the night before. We had no idea that Tuscaloosa was in shambles. Once we learned that horrible news, we decided to head to the beach - where our closest family lived.

As we drove south, we listened to the radio and heard the harrowing reports of how badly our state had been damaged. I looked at Chris and said, "I feel so guilty heading to the beach while so many people are hurting." He agreed, but felt there wasn't much we could do at that point with two little girls in tow.

Once we reached the beach, we turned on the television. We were astounded by the devastation in Tuscaloosa and the Birmingham area. Then Chris turned on our laptop and we saw the destruction that happened in our own county and in nearby Hackleburg and Phil Campbell.

We couldn't believe what we were seeing.

We enjoyed our time away - the girls got to play with their cousins which is the greatest thing ever in their books - but a heaviness hung over us. We mourned the lives lost, we cried over video we had seen and stories we had read, we hurt for those who had lost everything.

And I continued to feel guilty.

Friends of mine pitched in to help victims. As I read their stories and emails, I felt such admiration for them and knew that once I got home, I wanted to help.

We finally did today.

Chris and I went to a church in the Harvest area where they were handing out supplies to people in need. We got to pack up what they needed, then personally deliver it to their cars.

To say it was uplifting was an understatement. It was so touching to look these people in the eye, load supplies into their cars and give them encouraging words.

The very last person we helped seemed to be in a daze. She had a two-month-old child and as we loaded things into her car, her thoughts seemed to be somewhere else. I told her of the things we were giving her and she said little in return. She almost seemed numb.

As we loaded the last thing into her car, she grabbed me and hugged me and thanked me. It was a spontaneous outburst of emotion. We hugged her back and wished her the best.

As we pulled away, I said to Chris, "Did that last lady seem..."

"In shock?" he said, taking the words right out of my mouth. "Yes!" I said. "Amy," he answered, "we have no idea what she has been through. We don't know if she lost her home or not. And she has a two-month-old child to care for. She's probably scared to death."

I hope that somehow the kindness of strangers gave her hope. Not just from us, but the kindness of those who donated the supplies that would help her family. The kindness of those whose hands sorted those supplies long before she had received them. The kindness of those who had put in untold hours to help people like her.

Chris and I haven't even done a sliver of the work that most of you have this week. As we drove home I told him I knew we had only skimmed the surface during those hours this afternoon, but that brief work has given me a burning desire to do it again. I feel as if I have an actual hunger to go out and help the victims of this horrifying disaster. And I can't wait to find the many opportunities that lie ahead.

My hat is off to those of you who have spent countless hours volunteering this week. To those of you who left the comforts of your own home to help others. To those of you who worked on your off days instead of relaxing at home. For every tree you cut, limb you pulled, meal you cooked, item you sorted and hug you handed out, you have made a difference in the life of someone who is hurting.

You have shown the love of Christ in a mighty way. You may never know the impact you've had on the people you have helped.

You have proven that actions really do speak louder than words.

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