A year ago, a wickedly devastating tornado whipped through Joplin, MO. We live a couple hours away from Joplin, and after watching coverage of the damage for a few days after the storm, my husband and I couldn't sit in our roofed house any longer...we headed to Joplin to help.
Sounds awesome, right? Like, "we're here, we're volunteers, get used to it." Give us a wristband and throw us where you need us most. We can handle it. We're gonna pull survivors from rubble. We're going to change people's lives, one downed tree at a time. Face mask? Nah. We're self-sufficient. We're tough. We're here to HELP.
We arrived at the community college where the Red Cross was registering volunteers. Or maybe it was FEMA. Anyway, there were BUSES of people arriving--people with way more equipment than the gloves and lunch bags we had. (You know, because we didn't want to be a burden.) We were given face masks and water and taken to what used to be the high school.
Oh. My. Gosh.
Nothing was more than 10 feet high....for as far as we could see...in the middle of town.
Dirt, wood scraps, carpet pieces, torn clothes, broken glass...everywhere.
Everything looked the same, like it had been an abandoned war-torn city a few decades ago.
And everything smelled old and wet.
But hey, we were there to help. Put us to work.
We walked around and saw spray painted crosses and numbers on every house. They were codes for rescue workers -- the real rescue workers, not us handy volunteers. And those workers had already been through the neighborhoods. Our job was to clear debris. So we headed to the worst houses. Of course, right? Nope, said our Americorps guide. Those houses would be flattened. So we went to houses that would be saved. An enormous tree through the roof? No problem. And we cleared what we could, one skinny branch at a time.
I held it together for most of the day. But then I was helping clear debris from an apartment. The roof was completely gone, and the contents inside looked tossed about. The front wall of the house was half-down. And a woman, the resident, sat on her front steps waiting for her family to come. And she just looked helpless...hopeless. I did what I could to make her front lawn look less sad...and then I broke down. This woman had nothing left. She needed real help. And here I was, creating a pile of junk in her front yard.
ALL this to say, I never want to forget how lucky I felt that day. And I never want to forget how helpless I felt that day. I didn't save anyone. I didn't change the world with the dirt I got on my face, arms, and hair. I was no hero in Joplin...I was exhausted.
BUT. I did something. And I can never regret that. It wasn't big or significant or awesome. But I did exactly what I hope others would do if I were sitting in my roofless, wall-less house.
Often I wonder how, in the world of adoption, I'm "being the change" and helping even one child have a family when there is a WAIT LIST for these kids. But then I realize, if I left the "line", that's eventually one child who doesn't have love. The need for adoptive parents isn't a static, one-time-only thing. It's constant. And that line has to constantly be there for the children who will forever need those parents.
No, I'm not Brangelina. And I'm no Mother Theresa or Gandhi or Muhammed Yunus. But I am doing what I hope others would do if I was an orphan. Be there. Show up. Get in line. You may feel much smaller, and more helpless, than you initially imagined when you signed up for this journey. But you're doing something you won't regret.