(This week’s pictures are actual pictures of Ann’s home, the rising creek, and the aftermath, provided by her family.)
Ann lost everything in the flood of 2010 that struck Nashville, Tennessee like a freight train out of control. She watched as her “life” was pulled piece by piece out into her yard to be picked through and thrown away. The loss was devastating, and only complicated by the fact that she now had no place to live and hardly a change of clothes. Ann was not alone in her suffering. Other Nashvillians experienced devastation as well, but the pain of others does not lessen your own. Still, there is some comfort in community and shared experience.
There were many stories that week of people having nothing left but the clothes on their backs and their lives. Nashville responded to the tragedy with great kindness to its own and an amazing outpouring of love and practical service. Churches and service clubs brought groups of workers into the devastated areas and people volunteered in numerous ways. Mothers with young children made sandwiches and brought water and food to the victims. Sports teams and college kids showed up to haul off trash. Men brought their tools and began demolition on drywall that had to be removed immediately to avoid mildew. Friends and strangers wiped down and cleaned the clingy film of grime that was left on everything. There was much to be done on a large scale, and in the details, and help came in many different ways.
Ann shared two stories of goodness that have not left my mind to this day. The first was about two strangers that came to her aid. Ann said that two older women showed up at her home to offer help. She had never seen them before and did not know them at all. They kindly offered themselves, but Ann was unsure what to ask them to do. She did not want them to do the heavy labor, which was much of what was needed then. Ann was not in the habit of accepting help in general, and certainly not from absolute strangers. Suddenly she remembered that some of her clothes had been salvaged, but they were a filthy mess. They were not only stained from the floodwaters, but had bled onto each other. She knew that a red dress had bled onto white pants and it looked like they would be lost.
Hesitantly, Ann spoke up, “If you really want to help, I wonder if you could see what you could do with these clothes.” With that, the ladies took her things and were off. In the swirl of all that was happening, Ann did not remember them leaving or anything else about it, that is, until a few days later. Out of nowhere, Ann’s laundry reappeared. With teary eyes, Ann told me how her things had been returned without a word – perfectly restored, pressed and ready to wear. They were clean, beautiful, and such a gift. To this day Ann does not know who those women were – their names or where they live.
Another helper came in the form of a friend from church. With all the big jobs taking Ann’s attention, the little things were all but forgotten. A dear friend from church accepted the daunting task of sorting and cleaning the gnarled mess that was now Ann’s jewelry. After a few days, Ann said her jewelry was returned to her sparkling clean and sorted – each piece sealed in its own little plastic bag. The sight was such a joy to Ann because her friend had insisted on helping and done it with such heart. Sometimes it’s the little things….
“Goodness comes in all sizes.”
A “Good” Idea –
Visit us next week to read the final installment of this four part series on Goodness in Special Circumstances.