The light show was intense. Long slender fingers of lightening streaked across the night sky, illuminating clouds that looked like they were boiling as they churned. It was beautiful, fascinating and terrifying. Unbeknown to us, a short distance away, a tornado was destroying homes and businesses; cementing itself in the nightmares of those residents.
Sunrise greeted a day with clear skies – hot, humid and typical of this area. It also shed light on the devastation left behind.
Barns flattened, trees shredded and homes that looked as if a giant beast had chewed and clawed on them to reach the occupants. Exhausted residents reviewed their new reality in disbelief and awe. Phone calls were made, reaching out to family, friends and insurance companies. Emergency crews had already been at work for hours. Power lines had to be rehung, trees removed from roads, overturned semi-trailers needed to be righted, and gas lines turned off. Damaged homes and businesses were checked for survivors and victims.
Emotions ran high. Frustration with financial setbacks and messes to be cleaned. Bewilderment; where to start, who to call. Fear, uncertainty, and grief over the loss of the sense of security as well as property. The clean-up will take weeks. Healing may take longer.
Even as residents began the arduous tasks of assessing, cleaning up and repairing, they also have to deal with the predatory behavior of some people as they came to loot; inflicting additional damage as people struggle to put their lives back together. Con artists will offer skills and services they have no ability or intention of delivering.
Among this chaos, there will also be gratitude. Prayers will be offered up because the damage could have been more pronounced, people could have died. Gratitude and appreciation will be expressed because neighbors will come together to put up tarps, pick up debris and offer spare bedrooms, a fresh meal, a hot shower and cold drinks. Friends will watch over children as their parents deal with the unwelcome tasks that need immediate attention.
Volunteers from local churches, civic groups, and schools will organize clean up assistance, meals and even in some instances, repairs. The struggle of one person will be the opportunity for redemption through service for another. It will benefit both the recipient and the giver, easing burdens in different ways.
While I am sorry the storm earlier this week wreaked havoc on so many people, I am glad it provided opportunity for human connection and interaction. Neighbors will work side by side and strangers will offer what help they can. Socio-economic boundaries will blur, and in some cases disappear, as new friendships will be formed and people will remember there is kindness all around.
That is the real beauty of that storm, not the photographs of the funnel cloud and the thunderheads, but the resiliency of our small community and the people within. This is what many bureaucrats and the anonymous, isolated residents of big cities don’t grasp; a hand up from a compassionate friend is always preferred to a hand-out from a faceless agency who sees nothing more than an application.
This is the real majesty of the storm.