Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Spirit of Joplin

(written 6/10/2011)
I'm sitting on my hotel bed, bags packed, heart swollen with sadness.  I am leaving Joplin this morning after spending most of the last 10 days watching the people of this city pick up pieces of their lives and put them back together.  I have seen what the worst of nature has left behind.  But I have seen the best of what nature could not destroy.

As we sat in a little closet of a room at the MSSU campus, with more in that little room than some people have in total after the storms, we watched as people broke down with tears of joy when we handed out their EBT cards loaded with $200 or more in food assistance.  They cried, they thanked us, and they walked away to continue putting their lives back together.  I didn't do anything spectacular.  It wasn't my money to give away.  Some people weren't eligible for assistance, but rather than scream or yell or throw a fit, they just said, "that is okay, I have more than other people, I will be okay." 

These last 10 days have been amazing.  I have heard their stories, I have shed tears while they cried, I have handed out assistance.  But most importantly, I have witnessed the spirit which will carry this city to greater heights.  Their buildings may be destroyed, their lives may be disrupted, their hearts may be broken from those they lost, but no tornado can completely devastate or destroy the city of Joplin.  Yesterday, as we were preparing for the last day of taking applications for assistance, someone brought us an entire sheet cake which said "Thank You, You're awesome, You're great, etc.".  Individuals who had been devastated by the storms offered to get us Sonic drinks, etc. 

No, Joplin friends, do not thank me.  THANK YOU for opening your lives to me, for allowing me to glimpse what makes this city so special.  Thank you for allowing me to spend these days with you.  I am walking away today, going back home.  But you will remain in my heart.  You have taught me so much in the last few days.  You have taught what it is to be devastated, yet rise from the ashes.  The spirit of Joplin.

Isaiah 61:4
 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
   and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
   that have been devastated for generations.

1 comment:

  1. Rachel, I think you have summed up this little corner of Missouri. Thank you for writing it so lovingly and compassionately. I love that strong mid-western spirit.