I have stopped by many neighbor’s homes and listened to their stories and offering to help clean up. There is so much to do it is even hard to show someone where to help.
Yesterday I stopped by a neighbor’s home because I heard it was their first night back since they had to evacuate. Our daughters are the same age and have been friends growing up. I didn’t know what to do. I
brought some flowers for them so they would have something beautiful to look at in their home. (And something that didn’t smell like sewage.) As we stood in her driveway and looked at their belongings set in piles (things to save, things that need to be cleaned, things that maybe can be saved if they dry out, etc), I realized what she needed was to talk. She needed to share her grief. The story is important and the act of telling it is important, just as when we experience grief when someone dies.
She told me her middle school son is lamenting that his childhood has died. Their basement was the playroom for years. Even things that her kids didn’t play with anymore were still down there because they were treasured. Thomas the Tank Engine. If you know Thomas, those are all wooden pieces. All gone. Most of their Christmas decorations including the ornaments they bought each year for their two children are probably too damaged to save. But they are still sitting in their own pile. She is not ready to commit to putting them in the dumpster yet.
And then she stared to chuckle, with tears in her eyes, “You know what made it through the flood? The toilet paper roll Nativity Set the girls made when they were in Kindergarten Sunday School.”
Who would have thought that the nativity set made with old toilet paper rolls would be one of the sturdiest things in their home? But in a way it makes sense. Our faith is not a flimsy, fair weather, tissue paper valentine that is there to make us feel warm and fuzzy. Our faith is sturdy: ready to withstand the floods, destruction and
heartache that come with living. Our faith has withstood those things through time and will carry us again. God promised us and still does, “I will be with you. You are not alone.” The irony that it was a clothespin Jesus that has survived is not lost on me. It is through Christ that God is present with us every day. God's promises even show up through the handiwork of a 5 year old child.
My neighbor’s only request: “Pray for us.” I can do that. I am hoping she will call if she needs physical help. But for now, I will pray for more of that sturdy faith that has gotten all of us this far.