Memorial Day in Moore

PsalmLike most of you, I had only seen the devastation in Moore, Oklahoma on TV.  I literally live about 30 minutes from Moore, but had not made it down there for a couple of reasons.  First, I absolutely do not like gawkers and looky-lous.  Second, I did not want to find myself in the way of actual workers helping the residents in the area.  Well, that changed for me today as I drove to Moore to meet members of my church, Crossings, at Fresh Start Church in Moore.Well, I spent a part of my Memorial Day in Moore, Oklahoma helping with the disaster relief.  I’m not telling you this to say, “look what I did” or “what did you do.” rather to share some perspective.  I got to the church at about 8:30 am and turned in my waiver.  You know, the paper they make you fill out so if you’re less than graceful, like me, and you get hurt the churches are not responsible.  Then we all went into the auditorium and were given the list of areas to work in.  I went with the large team figuring they needed more help.

After a quick meet-up outside the church, I hopped into my Suburban and followed the caravan of volunteers to the work site.  My first thought when I pulled into the neighborhood was one of heartbreak as I could see the victims’ personal belongings strewn about, their cars sitting in the driveway smashed in by bricks and shredded lumber, and homes gutted by the unforgiving forces of nature.  

However, that heartbreak soon turned to beaming pride in, not only my fellow Oklahomans or even fellow Americans, but in the giving nature of people all over the world.  IsraAidFirst off, you would not believe the people who were there.  Not just local volunteers, but people from Christian churches all over the country.  It doesn’t stop there, either.  The team I worked with had members from IsraAid. These are people from Israel that respond to major disasters worldwide.

These people were great, they worked like there was no tomorrow and worked to make sure we stayed hydrated.  They were friendly, respectful, and caring of the situation at hand.  We also had Service International working with us, supplying food, drinks, equipment, and man power.

What really stuck with me was the sheer amount of love and compassion everyone showed; it was the gratitude offered from the homeowners as they helped clean the storm debris from their property.  It amazes me that with such loss and devastation that people weren’t walking around like zombies, as they were right after the storm, but their hearts were lifted by the fact that so many strangers were willing to put their lives on hold to help fellow human beings work through the destruction caused by this storm.

Something else caught my attention.  Every once in a while I would stop for a short break and look around seeing the toll taken on these people’s lives, seeing the children’s toys ruined and their destroyed bedrooms on show like some sort of macabre window dressing.  Then I would see the homeowner and their family helping us, their spirits uplifted.  They just lost everything they owned and they didn’t seem to worry too much about it.  They seemed more worried about picking themselves up and moving forward, than dwelling on what happened to them just a week prior.  That’s Oklahoma, folks.  That the spirit you hear about in the news.

I saw that enduring spirit in others who came to our state to help.  People weren’t sitting around twiddling their thumbs, they got to work moving debris from the yard to the curb.  Companies donated their time, resources, and equipment, like skid steers, to help move the process along.

Think about it, hundreds of strangers bound by one single event making an impact on others.  The homeowners weren’t the only people impacted in the clean up effort, either.  The volunteers were impacted by the generous nature of other volunteers.  I know I was.

It was refreshing to have someone walk up to me, as they saw me sweating while running a chainsaw or pulling limbs away, to offer me water or a Gatorade. 

So, what did I learn today?  I learned that people will come from all over to help someone when disaster strikes.  I learned that these possessions of ours are nothing more than material objects that can be replaced.  I learned that the human experience is more than politics and religion.  It’s about giving to a community in need while hoping you’ll never need them to come to my community.  Seriously, people, if you haven’t volunteered yet and you have the means to do so, do it.  It’s not like helping your friend move or going to work.  It’s exhausting work, but every moment is worth it.

To be honest, I was going to go fishing today.  I had planned to spend Memorial Day at the lake casting a line.  I volunteered at my wife’s urging and I’m glad I did.  It was much more meaningful than having a few beers while trying to hook a large mouth.

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