What would the world be if we all just did what we were supposed to do? How would we ever move forward if we only did what we had to? How could anyone ever know love if we didn't go beyond our expectations to help others? That's what this weekend was all about for Wes and I. We consider ourselves pretty giving people. If a friend is going through hardship, we help them out. If a family member is sick, we take care of them. If a dog or cat needs a home, we take them in. These are great things, but are we really going out of our way to make a difference? Did we sacrifice much to show another person love? Did we reach out to others who didn't know love existed?
God shows unconditional love. My brother, John, was the epiphany of love. He did not go to church. He did not stand on the roof top and yell out the word of God. He lived his life the way Christ showed us to. He went out of his way to help others. He was there for strangers. He did not ask what they believed. He didn't care what color you were, what God you believed in, which religious text you read. He cared that he made you smile. He cared that you felt his warm heart every time he talked to you. At John's funeral and viewing, we met many people who came to say their final thank you to John for showing them love. One particular man stood out. He met John when his car broke down on the side of the road in Atlanta. John stopped to fix his car and give him a ride. He had never met John, but John asked no questions. He just reached out his hand, opened his heart, and helped out a stranger in need. That is the life Wes and I want to live. John is our inspiration. He lived for God more than any person I've ever known.
After picking up numerous donations in the D.C. area and Georgia, we made our way down I-20 to Alabama bright and early Saturday morning. As soon as we crossed the Alabama border, we went into full help mode. We passed power crews working to restore power. The excitement built the closer we got to the disaster area.
We were not able to take the route the GPS was taking us to get to Jocelyn's house. Some of those roads had been shut down preventing people from driving through and gawking at the destruction and looters from coming through to steal stuff. We had to take backroads and the destruction to the forests around us was enough for us open our eyes to the devestation caused by these storms.
| Excitement began to set in as we made our way into Birmingham and towards the areas affected by storms. |
|Just a few images of the backroads we had to take to get to Jocelyn's house.|
As we got closer and closer to Jocelyn's house, the excitement grew on both ends. Jocelyn kept calling and asking where we were at. Are you here yet?! Jocelyn is one of my very best friends. She is like the sister I never had. We finally made it to her driveway, which was another mile and a half to her house. Yes, her driveway is that long. She lives on 40 acres in a beautiful log cabin.
After a great breakfast made by Jocelyn, we made our way out to distribute donations. The first chuch we went to was full and could not accept any more. The second was full. Then we got to the third. The third church we went to was full as well, but we met a lady who lived in Sipsey, Alabama. Sipsey is a small town that was devestated by the tornados. We could not get into Sipsey because it had been cordoned off by police. Only people who lived there were allowed in and out. However, families were homeless and had lost all their belongings. The lady we met, Patty, had her car and was coming out of Sipsey to get supplies to donate to families who lost their homes. She said that most of the big relief effort organizations were set up outside of Sipsey and that residents couldn't get to them. She and the church had taken on the mission to come out and gather supplies and bring them back. They went from door to door to donate clothing, food, medical supplies, etc. to tornado victims. I felt that she was the angel we were looking for. To be able to give an SUV packed full of supplies to a small town devastated, yet not receiving much help because they were not the big city and on the news, felt just right. We unloaded our vehicle and packed it all in her SUV. She was especially grateful for the brand new glucose meter and test strips my dad donated. She said that many people need them, but they don't get many in donations. Before leaving, she asked for our names, numbers, and addresses. I am looking forward to hearing from her. I have her number as well and I may call her soon to see how everything is going. One story she told me touched me, and I'm sure it will many of you. One little boy was found alive in Sipsey hiding in a deep freezer. He was only 3. They asked him what his name was and who his parents were. He didn't answer many questions. They asked him who put him in the freezer and he answered, "the man with wings." They still do not know who his parents are, where they are, or if they are alive. However, they all know he was spared death and that he has a great purpose here on earth. I had chill bumps when I heard that.
Because many of the towns around Birmingham were cordoned off by police, we made our way to Tuscaloosa with the several bags of dog food donated to us by Georgia Humane Society. Along the way, we saw mass destruction. We did not take pictures of people and their homes because I felt it was disrespectful and insensitive. We can only tell you what we saw. We drove through a small town where we saw homes that had been picked up off of their foundations and taken elsewhere. They weren't in pieces on the ground. They were completely missing. The only thing left was the slab foundations and empty basements. We saw a house that had been cut in half by the tornado. It looked as though a giant knife had just sliced it down the middle. Families sat outside their homes without roofs or windows. They had plywood signs that read, "we need supplies." We saw a neighborhood where the only thing left standing was the sign at the entrance. Everything else had been leveled.
Leaving Alabama was extremely hard. Although it seemed like we did a lot and donated so much (there were over 300 pieces of clothing donated, over 20 pairs of shoes, medical supplies, food, pet supplies, etc.), it was only a drop in the bucket with the amount of work that still needs to be done in Alabama. Other areas need help too. Georgia, Tennessee, Southwest Virginia...they were all hit hard by these storms. We left Alabama with a heavy heart for these people. We left Alabama feeling guilty for not doing more.
Overall, it was a great weekend. It was very rewarding to give to those who needed it. I loved spending time with my sister-friend, Jocelyn, her two boys, Drew and Tyler, and Jason. Seeing them did our hearts good.
Thank the many of you who donated items and money to make this trip possible. I will be sending out individual thank you cards to all of you. Your overwhelming love and generosity inspired us. We love you.
“If you have much, give your wealth; if you have little, give your heart.” Anonymous