I wanted to say, “Pam, it’s going to be all right.” but I couldn’t. I didn’t know her name and I could not tell her things were going to be okay. Moments before, I had told her that humidifier was broken, it had three inches of water on the bottom of it even though it had been propped up on a stool when her tiny apartment flooded. It had finally been too much weight for one woman to carry on her own, and she laid it down in sobs as she clung to a stranger.
She, like all of the other people whose homes we cleaned out, was supremely grateful. She cried as we left, just as the sweet old Russian man had after we had finished moving everything he owned to the curb in front of his house.
I received the email with my first volunteer assignment as my home was raining on the inside from our flood. I spent days sucking water out of the carpet and our couches. My arms were tired, my spirit was wrecked. It had been a rotten week. I almost didn’t go. I figured if the people were wealthy enough to live in a beach front community, they were wealthy enough to hire help. I had my own mess on my hands. As the week moved on, I grew increasingly more depressed. I was mad that things had been so hard for so long. I asked God for a break.
|There are yards and streets under all of that sand. This is in Misquamicut, where we’ve been working.
I got my break while up to my knees in muck and sand. The work we did was tough. For the two days after each time I’ve gone down, I’m not able to raise my hands over my head. It is absolutely heartbreaking to see the devastation.
But there is much joy. There is SO much joy in service. I saw it in the people- of all ages and sizes and status- who rode with me in the back of trucks to our next assignment. They had joy. I saw it in the Red Cross volunteers as they cheerfully fed the 400 volunteers who showed up. I saw it in the teenage girls who came around with cookies that they baked. Service brings joy.
There is so much work that needs to be done. SO much joy to be had in a place you would not think you’d find it. The coastal communities here in the Northeast are far from being dug out. They need manpower, they need money. They are happy to take ANY volunteer no matter what your ability. They need people to work the phones and canvass neighborhoods for need. They need people with shovels to dig out. They need people to drive the volunteers. And there is a need for people who can just be there to offer a hug when nothing else can be said or done.
If you don’t live nearby, please consider donating to the Red Cross. They do SO MUCH good. You can donate $10 to the Red Cross by sending a text to 90999 or by going to redcross.org.
I’ve been working with an organization called Serve Rhode Island. If you live anywhere near, go to their website and sign up. They’ll send you an email with work assignments and you can choose which ones you can do as they come. You can also donate directly to them. They are a wonderful organization.
In this season of thanksgiving, show your gratitude by giving to those who are in need. It comes back to you. I know this. I forget it OFTEN. But I know this service got me out of the depression I was in. It put things in perspective. I needed that so much.
If you know of any other ways to help people with storm cleanout, will you please add them in the comments? I’ll update this post with information as I get it.