Severe storms plagued Indiana last Friday. My family was lucky; our area suffered no damage. But in southern Indiana, lives were changed forever. According to the news, Marysville is “gone”; Henryville was also devastated. How, then, you might wonder, does this relate to Christ? That’s easy. Hoosiers are so giving. We’re always ready and willing to help when the need arises, and this tragedy has been no different.
On Friday evening, we tracked stories of triumph and inspiration. Eighty students who’d been trapped in a Henryville school were rescued. No students died. Their emergency plan worked beautifully! And then there was the story of a toddler who’d been found alive in a field. I actually breathed a sigh of relief because, as a parent, I can’t imagine what it would be like to have my child ripped from my home by the fury of an EF-4 tornado.
By Saturday, we were starting to hear about the tragedies. A Georgia woman was killed by Friday’s storms as she sought protection in a drain pipe. That story made an impression on my 6-year-old, Freddie, because he offered a prayer for her at church on Sunday.
When we went to Mass on Sunday morning, I knew that we’d be praying for all the folks whose lives were transformed by last week’s storms. I even knew that we’d be taking up a collection to help with the recovery efforts. What I hadn’t predicted was the announcement that a large truck would arrive in the church parking lot later that day so that folks could take clothing, linens, and other necessities to folks who’d lost everything in the storms.
On the way home from church, I told the kids that we’d be going home to gather up some items for the folks who lost their homes in the tornadoes. My 9-year-old Abby was particularly excited. She couldn’t wait to see what she had to offer.
When we got home, I snagged two bags of clothing that I hadn’t managed to donate yet, and I set out to find additional items. Abby started going through her closet, and she said, “Mommy, I’m going to send a stuffed animal because some little kid might really like that.” Her thoughtfulness touched my heart.
And later, as I was gathering up old coats and jackets, I asked Abby about one of her coats. “I know you like this coat, but do you might if we donate it?”
She was so excited. “Mommy, that’s a GREAT idea because those people are going to be cold.” Not only was she showing the pure kindness that I’ve tried to teach her, but she was actually putting thought into her actions. She was trying to treat others as we would treat Christ, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled to see that.
We ended up taking a large bag of childrens’ shoes, a large bag of coats and jackets, three large bags of clothes, and a bit of our pantry larder to the donation point. I think some folks were finding it easier to just give money, and the money is helpful, but physical items are helpful too, especially since we had a cold snap this weekend, making the need for warm clothes and hot food more immediate.
While my heart was warmed yesterday by the evidence that Christ is alive in the good people of this state, my heart was saddened this morning as more stories are reported. The toddler that I talked about earlier — Angel Babcock — she died Sunday after she was removed from life support. And what I didn’t know when I first heard her story was that her mother, her father, and her two siblings were killed on Friday when the tornado destroyed the family’s mobile home.
In another sorrowful tale, a southern Indiana woman lost parts of both her legs when her house collapsed on her as she laid on top of her children to protect them. While I know I’d rather have my life and my children than parts of my legs, it doesn’t make this stuff easier. Lives were lost last week. Lives were changed forever.
Because of our preparedness, because of our belief that we should treat even the least of us as we would treat Christ, we can help some of these folks rebuild their lives. Even though I don’t know any of the folks who were affected personally, I feel a sense of responsibility to treat them the way I’d want to be treated if I were to experience the same kind of loss. I’ve heard “survivalists” say, “It’s just about me. So long as I have my stuff, I’m not going to worry about anyone else.” The thing is, those are the folks who won’t make it long in a tragedy. Those are the folks who’ll cut off their noses to spite their faces. Humans live in groups for a very good reason. Not a one of us can do it all. And even if you don’t believe in God, I think you’d have a hard time rationalizing the hard line. If we follow “The Golden Rule”, it’s that much easier for folks who’re suffering to make sense out of nonsense. Sometimes feeding a hungry person, offering shelter to someone who just lost their house, or giving a toy to a frightened child can be that small gesture that changes a life. And it’s that thought which is at the forefront of my mind as I do what little I can to surround folks I don’t even know with Christ’s love and peace.