Tuesday, June 3, 2008

It's just loooong and that's the way this one's gotta be

The request for help.
One person's answer for the group.
Less than 24 hours to pull it all together.
A homemade card.
Quickly gathered essentials.
A hastily gathered offering.

Sometimes, it all just works out, with very little effort. Sometimes, it all just seems ordained. Sometimes, it is pure God-magic.

This was one of those times.

Sunday, we went to devastated Parkersburg, Iowa, scene of an EF-5 tornado just one week previous; 10 dance team girls, ranging in age from 13-17 and four parents (ages ::coughcough:: unimportant). Alternatively during the 30 minute ride, we are silent or superficial in our interactions, but always a bit awkward.

As the minivan nears the destination, I begin to feel the tears coming. I know what I will see, having seen so much coverage on TV. I know that I will cry. I don't care that I will cry, but I do not want to embarrass my daughter or her friends with my display.

So I stammer and preface and try to explain. And as my eyes catch the first real-life glimpse of the ruins, I am struck speechless. For the next 25 minutes, as we snake our way through town, I am unable to say more than, "Oh my God", (as in prayer). Over and over.

We arrived at the local VFW hall, the site of all things crisis (FEMA, Red Cross, NOAH, State Patrol, Fire Depts., Police, Sheriffs, National Guard, volunteers, churches, etc.). Unbelievable. There were more people in that town, post-tornado, than had EVER been in it for any sunny day.

The hall was minimally busy when we arrived; no more than a couple of dozen people, including us. We received our job descriptions and ...waited. Too many helpers and not enough folks to help, yet.

Then, the accordion man and his wife come and set up camp. Wearing matching turquoise shirts and toting "eight of his 20 accordions", at first, I am a bit hinkey about them being there.

But it is clear that the duo feels a bit awkward, too (I'm thinking it had to do with that "What appropriate thing is there to say to a disaster victim?" feeling, not so much the "I'm wearing a matching turquoise shirt and I have just publicly admitted I own 20 accordions", but I can't be sure), so I mentally cut them some slack.

Then, the hungry townspeople begin to arrive and we are caught up in busing tables, assisting diners, handing out beverages, making take-home boxes of food, toting out trash and the like. The teens we brought are making me prouder than I've ever been and all is going pretty well. Polite conversation, small talk, some hugs are exchanged.

And then, it happens. Or 'she' happens. Amanda. A. manda.

Oh dear me. What is Amanda do*ing?

Amanda is one of my daughter's friends. We love her. Part stand-up comedian, part bull in a china shop, all big hearted; that's Amanda. I believe (and have stated out loud) that you could drop Amanda anywhere in the world and in 5 minutes she will have made a friend. When I made this point to another of the dance team members, it was asserted that it would probably only take 1 minute. lol

So what *was* Amanda doing? Well, I will tell you.

Amanda had pushed, pulled or dragged some poor frail, septuagenarian male onto a makeshift dance floor and was dancing...well, not a waltz with him. She was dancing the kind of dancing that you ought not to be dancing to accordion music, with an elderly gentleman, in a small Iowa town, recently half-leveled by a cyclone. Horror!

But, wait. wait. People were laughing (a teeny bit). And clapping (a smattering). And smiling (a whole lot) and suddenly, the brilliance of it was obvious.

Remember after 9-11, how good (and at the same time irreverent and awkward) it felt to watch SNL with Rudy Guliani as host? To laugh? To feel just a bit of the old normal (cuz we would forevermore have a new normal)?

Yeah. It was like that.

By the end of our shift, we had met many cool volunteers from all over the USA. We had made new friends. We had made memories. We had seen the worst of the damage and the best of the people.

By the end of our shift, Amanda (and the rest of our girls) had the National Guard and the firefighters dancing to "YMCA". Truth. I have video. I have so far decided against uploading it to YouTube, since it seems that might cause problems for men in uniform.

And everyone in the VFW hall in recently devastated Parkersburg, Iowa was laughing and clapping; the little kids were running wild and our girls were catching them up and swinging them around and the adults who were not dancing, were grasping our hands (we were all wearing matching dance team T-shirts, hot pink, no less; so we were easy to spot) and *thanking us* for bringing our girls.

Servanthood from Complacency.

Self-lessness from Self-centered-ness

Pride for Horror.

Mourning into Dancing.

Beauty for Ashes.

My God is an Awesome God.

1 comment:

jodyfoznot said...


Hi. I "know" you from a couple of yahoo groups (LCC, and maddiejun) and I'm usually silent. I just wanted to let you know that I'm praying for you and your family and the precious people who are struggling with the devastation in IA right now. I enjoy reading your posts. You are a wise and Godly woman whom God uses as His own personal flashlight, shining His love onto so many others near and far. This post really touched me, inspiring me to let God use whatever part of me to bring glory to him and to bring life and love to others. I pray that God uses this hard time to draw many others to Him.

Hugs and prayers,
Jody in MI