Making Sense Out of the Senseless

Soon after the tornado hit Joplin last week, I figured that at some point, I’d write about making sense of how karma could have played into such an awful act of Mother Nature. Really, how on earth could something so awful be anything close to balancing the universe? The pictures, and the stories were horrific. Nearly an entire nation waited with bated breath to discover the fate of Will Norton, senselessly pulled from the passenger seat of his car by 200 mile an hour winds. His crime? Leaving his high school graduation with his dad. For every well publicized story like this, there were hundreds that most will never hear about, and all of them would break your heart. The description of a missing 12 year old painted on the side of a truck; a woman waiting for 4 hours besides the body of her grandfather, knowing that no one was coming until the living had been attended to; the discovery of the clothing of a missing infant wrapped around a telephone pole, but the baby was nowhere to be found.

Like every good Southern woman, my first reaction in a time of great need is to feed someone. When the opportunity presented itself to join a crew doing just that for first responders, relief workers, and victims, I jumped. Besides the overwhelming need to
do something, anything, to help, I was hoping to try to make sense of what happened. Instead, I found my own life changed forever, and blessed beyond all expectation.

Not for a minute do I really believe that God sent a tornado down to the city of Joplin with the express purpose of destroying a good chunk of the city, and taking well over 100 lives. What I learned, however, is that His real work began once the winds stopped. By 9:00 the next morning, the company I work for was onsite, ready to feed folks from 2 different locations. One, at the edge of the devastation so victims could find them easier, and the other, at the police station to try and take care of first responders in a small, but very important way. I spent an evening at the police station, and when I arrived, I was prepared to provide, love, gratitude and comfort to those serving. Instead, I was the recipient of all of it.

Every police office, fire fighter, National Guardsman that came through the line acted like we were doing them a favor for feeding them a hot meal. They were combing the wreckage, finding God only knows what unspeakable horror, and they were thanking me. Volunteers asked me when the last time I had a hug was, and proceeded to give them to me; Joplin police officers smiled at me, the enormity of what they were dealing with lurking just below the surface, and thanked us for providing them with a hamburger; Missouri State Troopers asked us if they could provide us with a donation for the work we were doing. My answer each time was the same: We are the ones trying to thank you.

I can’t imagine what it took for these people, many of them Joplin residents, to spend days away from their families, getting little to no sleep, and keep working, keep searching, and finding things that only visit my nightmares. We fed dinner to families, so kids could spend 30 minutes with their parents for the first time in days. We fed victims that somehow found their way out of the destruction to the relative normalcy of downtown. The young ones seemed to be in the best shape, the terror seemingly beyond them. One small boy greeted me with a giant smile, and answered every question with an enthusiastic, “I’m Hayden!”. Mom, however, was a different story. Obviously shell-shocked, she gazed past all of us with the 1000 yard stare, struggling to answer even the simplest of questions. “Hamburger or hot dog for Hayden?” took 10 seconds to make its way from her ears, past heaven knows what horror, to her brain. We kept her close for dinner, and were thankful that the small number of victims in our location gave us that ability. We saw her again a few hours later, drifting down the street, holding Hayden’s hand as if she were trying to tether him to the earth yet again.

Maybe it was the proximity to Memorial Day, but the person that had the greatest impact on me was one that I never exchanged a word with, never had a change to give him a hot burger and maybe a smile. As the sun was going down, a kid in the National Guard (I can say kid because at that distance, he might have been all of 24), striding across the street, in uniform, deep in conversation with his partner. From the look of them, even at that distance, they were engrossed in work conversation. It looked just like the dozens of conversations I witnessed from a distance that day with one exception: This guy was missing his left arm below the elbow. Having already given so much, and seen what was likely a hundred times worse than what is beyond words for the rest of us, he was back out there, still giving. I only wish I would have had the opportunity to thank him, and let him know what kind of blessing he’d given me, just by his presence.

Ancient wisdom says that acts of Karma will be visited on you ten fold. I only wish I knew what wonderful thing I had done in my life to have deserved what was returned to me last Thursday.

The road to recovery will be long, and Joplin is not the only community suffering. Please visit the Red Cross to find out how you can help.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. vanessa
    May 29, 2011 @ 18:17:22

    there’s not a dry eye at my laptop.

    feeding tummies with hamburgers and then hearts with your writing– everyone wins!


  2. Siri
    May 29, 2011 @ 20:32:05

    Thanks for this. I’m glad there are people like you in the world who do what people like me think should be done.

    Someday, I’ll be people like you.


  3. Big Sis
    May 30, 2011 @ 16:51:35

    As I sit here with the tears running down my face, I believe my lil sis gets it. Disaster has claimed another community, your heart physically hurts for those who have lost their homes, possessions and their loved ones. We humans will step forward, provide comfort and love to our brothers and sisters who are in such need and receive as much if not more in return for our deeds. It is the most important thing we can do, be compassionate to others. I am so proud my family was there to help hold up our friends in a dire situation. God bless you sis.


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