When Mister Rogers saw something scary as a boy, he said his mother told him, “Look for the helpers.”
A few days ago, my parents sat at home eating breakfast when a sudden tornado barreled down their road. Thankfully, they survived without injury as did their animals, though some structures and trees sustained significant damage. My husband and I arrived to help with the cleanup in separate vehicles. He called me before I got there and told me to hold my breath when I turned down their road as the scene was jolting. All of the massive, old trees surrounding their house were pulled up by the roots except for the one that would have crushed their house where they were sitting the morning of the storm.
The scene did take my breath away as “what if” thoughts flashed through my mind and tears hid behind my sunglasses. However, I saw more than the damage. I saw helpers – heroes in boots armed with chainsaws. I saw people who brought food, work gloves, and homemade ice cream. I saw the man who smiled at me from the tractor as he pulled portions of trees across the pasture with heavy chain. I saw people rebuilding fences and reframing the barn. I saw people piling sticks and debris in enormous burn piles. I saw the person pushing a rolling magnet across the pasture picking up loose nails and screws. I saw people who offered companionship and conversation. Standing in the middle of a literal field of devastation, I saw hope.
Later, as the evening breeze began to blow in a slight chill, I sat in a folding chair in the driveway eating off a paper plate at a makeshift picnic. Maybe, if we had not looked around or wondered why everyone was sitting outside covered in dirt, we might have thought we were celebrating something. But, in that moment of jokes, food, and camaraderie, maybe we were. The world, already so upside down with pandemic and economic concerns, seemed to fall completely out of orbit with the added in natural disaster. Yet, even when faced with of all of those challenges, the most important things, love and hope, still found their way to that driveway.
Thank you to the helpers (and to those whose offers of help are still standing by) not only for your immense efforts and hard work, but also for gifting us with the intangible gifts that light up the darkest of days. You are our heroes.