Tennessee is “The Volunteer State.” At no other time in its history has this been made more widely known and evident than during the past few days since the tornadoes that ripped a fifty-mile long swath of misery and devastation through its very heart. In the early hours of Tuesday, March 3, 2020, the storm came without warning and pulverized the mid-state with up to 175-mile-an-hour winds in the center of the state, killing 25.
But that’s not all the news. “Look for the helpers,” as the legendary Mr. Rogers would have said, invoking his mother’s words. In Tennessee, you didn’t have to look hard. People were being turned back from attempting to help pack emergency relief boxes at the Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort headquarters in Nashville.
Wringing her hands and tears in her eyes, one of the ladies who came told me, “I just want to do something! I want to help.” She was about to drive in to the ravaged area and just start cleaning up somewhere — anywhere — until I explained to her that law enforcement wants to limit that to authorized rescue groups, so as to minimize the vehicles clogging the debris-strewn roads. The logistics of managing such a ravaged area unfortunately also limits the amount of help.
The mountain of supplies in the foyer at our own church building the following day reminded me of how generous the Israelites were in giving materials to build the tabernacle. Moses had to tell them to stop (Exodus 36).
Our own President was blown away by the willingness of Tennesseans to pitch in, and in particular the relief efforts spearheaded by our brethren.
But it’s not just our brethren picking up and helping. Day by day we hear of grocery stores giving out food, or neighbors with electricity putting up phone charging stations in their front yards.
When God decided to create humankind in his own image, it wasn’t a physical image. It is God’s traits of compassion, love, and righteousness that was bestowed upon man. THIS is what we are seeing minute by minute in the Nashville, Mount Juliet, and Cookeville areas and beyond. Inasmuch as mankind mirrors the nature of God, it is God’s gift of his nature that is displayed.
It blows us away.
There are times in other situations when a multitude of helpers comes along and literally saves the day. Our family had a nightmarish whirlwind of misery last summer, after 15 long months of knowing there was something terribly wrong. When our granddaughter was kidnapped and hidden by a domestic abuser, it took many, many helpers to patch our disaster site — our daughter’s life — back together. I will apologize here for being absent as a writer for so many months! But we were blown away with the generosity and speed of the help we received.
The fact is, even after retrieving our precious baby and whisking her and our daughter to safety, the baby seemed oblivious to the drama surrounding her. Lacking many real toys during her escape, she found joy in a handful of thistle seeds, as they floated on the wind! Would that our worries would be blown away so gently.
The stories coming out of last Tuesday’s horrific events are of families blown away in flying bathtubs, and an eight-year-old who thought he was flying as he was literally blown away. Then there is the heartbreaking sadness of families being ripped apart by the F-4 winds, never to be seen again with the breath of life still in them.
But “look for the helpers.” In this case, just “notice the helpers,” because you won’t have to really look to find them. You will be figuratively “blown away.”