…that’s how long the woman we worked alongside today at her home in Lyons had lived in her house. She was evacuated after a “flash flooding is imminent” warning swept through her community. “I didn’t have time or think to grab much,” she said. She raised her children in her home. They are all grown now, but imagine the memories that were swept away as the water rushed “like whitewater,” she told us. Wandering through the property on which all the structures had to be gutted, she began to think about all the things she wished she had taken with her as she fled in front of the crashing water that swept through the canyon with fury with no mercy or respecter of persons in its path. All around the mud and debris there were signs of a well kept beautiful house and yard – a glimpse of beautiful flower pots with tips of green leaves peeking out of the mud; sadly everything was pretty much covered by sometimes over 3 feet of mud and muck. Two of her backyard structures, one of which looked like a really cool studio/loft addition on the back property were buckling under the force of tons of mud bearing down upon them. “How are you holding up?” I asked. She described feeling pretty numb and weary the past two weeks but then with the most beautiful smile she said, “But I’m doing okay now!” Okay? Wow. Our conversation wove between shovels full of mud and debris which we were hauling to the streets to line up besides the dozens and dozens of rows of debris from other homes in the same condition. Swarms of volunteers in various colors of shirts identifying the various relief organizations were busy helping neighbors try to make as much progress as possible for the time they were there.
Seeing the massive devastation all around it seemed that there would be no way that any order or “normal life” could ever return to this community. And yet, seeing the determination on the faces of the residents and the courage they displayed in picking up a lifetime of memories little by little – combined with the multitude of helping hands from the volunteers one could begin to imagine that maybe, just maybe, in the not so distance future order would return. It reminded me of the many times in my life when in the no way out situations there began to be a glimmer of hope and focusing on that hope produced the courage and sheer grit to keep going.
I was with my friends today who will be traveling with me to Bolivia for a mission trip in just 20 days. We had planned a day of team building and training and our training leader suggested that we actually mobilize and help with flood relief rather than sit around a building role playing the best ways to develop a team. I am so glad we had this opportunity.
Standing under my hot shower today, as I anxiously lathered up with soap and washed away the sweat and grime from the day, I was reminded how much I have to be thankful for. I thought about my new friend in Lyons who we helped today and how she will return tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that to continue rebuilding her life and how I was only exposed for a few hours. I thought about my other friends living in other communities who also were deeply affected by this unexpected catastrophic flooding. We don’t know why it happened, but it did.
Life goes on. Originally we all were very tuned in to our television sets, radios, social media sites and more. It was all we could think about. But for those of us who weren’t deeply affected, though we truly feel compassion for those whose lives were turned upside down by this flooding, we somehow see to move on. But we don’t have to! Think about those in your lives who were affected. I’m hearing about communities rallying and providing meals to friends who are still very much in the intensity of this storm’s aftermath. Or others who check in on relief sites to see what supplies are running short. Or, if you have time to give, like our group did today, GO! Is it messy? Yes. Will you be super super tired? Yes. Are there risks. Yes. But think about it. You are lending hope, a smile, courage, a much needed extra pair of hands and fresh wind to people who literally sometimes have nothing left but to dig through piles and piles of mud and debris as they rebuild their lives.
I am so glad I had this opportunity to go today and serve. There are many organizations who need volunteers. This is not going to be something that is “finished” in many communities for a very long time. There is still a TON of work to be done. Grab your friends. Go! Make a difference! The thing is, you go to help and serve, but you leave being so filled up by the very ones to whom you went to help. It’s just the way it works.
Again, there are many organizations out there who you can volunteer with – check them out. Our team volunteered with Samaritan’s Purse. They did a great job training us and preparing us to do what we needed to do today. If you’re interested in making a difference through Samaritan’s Purse, start your journey here: http://spvolunteernetwork.org/projects/colorado-flood-response.aspx