She came and she went and most certainly made her mark. She took so much and left even more to be reckoned with. Sand covered cars blocks off the water, makeshift food vendors giving away warm meals to lines of victims wrapped around tattered streets, pitch black apartments stories high, twisted metal, splintered wood, wind slapping at already tired faces. We went to drop off items, we left forever changed.
Step one: do something. It really was fairly easy. We all felt the heartache of watching these horrific images of places torn apart by a storm perhaps no one took as seriously as they should have. Places we’ve visited, vacationed at, called home now or sometime in the past. But somehow it didn’t feel humane enough to simply text in a donation. So we asked for things and we set up shop- anything and everything people could spare or felt they’d need in a time of crisis. Hours later we had more than we could have imagined. Overwhelmed with the generosity shown, we sorted and laughed and labeled and bonded. Stepping outside of yourself for the greater good is a reward well worth experiencing.
The single file line of cars was backed for miles to enter the destructed area we set out to assist..getting “in” was humbling enough- boats thrown for blocks, spray painted signs warding off looters, volunteers camped out with hot soup signs. Neighbors carting garbage with masks on, all the while offering a pat on the shoulder or a hug to the next person in tears. Really, truly like a war torn third world country. Made my heart speed up without a blink. The only way to actually settle into the idea was to tell myself that we were one step closer to making a difference, to getting our stuff to them. “Those” people that could have been us people.
We were turned away at at least four drop off stations before we found Joann and Louis. Turned away. Not because we didn’t have the goods 😉 but because so many had come before us. Try being angry about that. Sprinkle in some laughter when our Uhaul got stuck in the sand trying to get to our first unloading spot. A tow truck and six grown men-grunting and pushing with all their might -later and we had ourselves some takers. They had open hands and tremendous smiles. Baby clothes and items here, food in the back, flashlights and batteries, jackets there. Water. Cases and cases of water. Blankets and sweat pants. Louis told us how it wasn’t really “all that bad” there, that many other places had been hit much worse- all we need is power and we should be okay. One step at a time we’ll rebuild-it will just take some help.
Feeling a sense of accomplishment and certainly some adrenaline, we made our way without streetlights or evident roads to the next place. Give more. Youth task force students in marked t shirts running items to and from trucks, vans, shopping carts. We carried most items ourselves. Climbing in and out of the vehicle. “We have that too” I think there were several of us who were prepared to wade water if need be. Definitely a few of the guys who were disappointed not to get dirtier.Step back, we’re goin’ in mentality.
Our last stop was a lot less structured, more desolate, residents heightened with need-albeit storm related or not. We dumped at that point-trying to help divvy it out in a rational manner, but they took it all. Requests being yelled into the truck, hands raised, bags rummaged through. We handed out heavy duty garbage bags so they could gather items. A little girl was wearing a new jacket in seconds, carting around a toy she scored and other things she quickly towed in her backpack. Her mother took books. We blessed them, they blessed us..they choked up, so did we. Just try to keep those kids warm. The air doesn’t feel like it’s going to give any of them a break in the coming days.
This week we’re supposed to take an interest in where we stand with our political beliefs and the future of our country. We should and we will.. but here’s a tip- if your plan is to stand around talking about what should or shouldn’t be done, who is or isn’t to blame, take a walk. Either step up to the plate and contribute something or step aside and the hell out of the way because there’s work to be done with our without you. Those people will tell you, the those who could have been us-who have to start all over.
Today was a step in the right direction. One step at a time.