life stories

helping hearts and hands

This past Sunday, my community was hit with a tornado. The wind and rain at my house was unbelievable, but it didn’t compare to the devastation across town that became clear Sunday night. The tornado was on the ground for almost 30 miles. Houses were demolished, huge trees uprooted and strewn on houses and streets, and countless lives were affected. Four of our public schools were damaged; students and teachers at those schools won’t be able to return for the remainder of the school year. Our public school system closed schools for two days.

Monday I waited for word on what was needed, where to go, how to help. Honestly, I had several moments of wishing that I ran a nonprofit, because I was so eager to bring people together to help. I could feel organization in the wind, and I was hopeful that our city would rally around the many people that need help. We are only at the beginning of helping the many people who were affected by the tornado, but my community amazes me. There was already a great need. I prayed that love and action would be greater.

Tuesday morning, my kids brought me breakfast in bed, a toasted bagel with cream cheese, a handful of almonds thrown across the plate, and two strawberries inside the hole of each bagel half. On the side of the tray was a small vase with a clipping of flowers taken from our front yard. “Mommy, eat up. We have work to do.”

Very aware of our privilege and therefore our call to action, I took my kids to Target, working from three different lists of needed supplies we had created. My daughters, normally not exactly what you would call helpers in any store, were leading me. Crayons, beef jerky, peanut butter, canned fruit, canned beans, toilet paper, colored pencils, paper, cleaning wipes, phone chargers. Love and hope.

Later in the afternoon, we drove to various locations around the city. Our children’s museum provided space to donate school supplies for teachers and students who lost everything, as well as an opportunity for children in our community to color pictures for children who were impacted by the tornado. We walked in to a room of kids and adults sorting an unbelievable amount of school supplies. Our final stop was at a library very close to the community that was affected the most. We took a bag of collected toiletries, food, water, and we were greeted with claps and more thank yous than necessary, and I wasn’t sure if we were doing the blessing or the receiving of the blessing.

It doesn’t matter at all in the large scheme of things, but I had a horrible Easter this year. I didn’t go to church for the first time in years, opting instead for a hike in the woods on Easter morning. I was searching for solace in the ordinary and a connection that, at times, doesn’t seem clear. I know now that Easter came late for me this year. I have seen so much resurrection in the last 48 hours. Indeed, we are an Easter people. Watching people show up for each other is seeing people at their best.

I love the texts and emails that pop up as an additional need is realized…globes, scissors, boxes, lamps, glue sticks. Our community continues to rally around those affected, as requests for help and supplies are shared and met. It will take a long time to rebuild and restock, but it will be done person by person.

Easter and hope and resurrection and love come in many forms: a simple breakfast delivered to a mother who has been a little bit grumpy lately, an art creation created for one child from another, simple needs recognized and responded to, the promise of a better tomorrow, or at least someone to walk beside you on the way.

My kids came home from school today, not walking in the door before asking, “What can we do today?”

My reply: “Continue resurrection.”

There are countless people who are organizing in big and small ways, but I recommend these resources if you are local and looking for ways to help:

The Volunteer Center of Greensboro:

Guilford Education Alliance:

Backpack Beginnings:

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” – Desmond Tutu




3 thoughts on “helping hearts and hands

  1. What a beautiful picture of loving community responding to tragedy. This caught me by surprise since I had not heard of this storm, and I’m so grateful that your beautiful family knew exactly how to practice resurrection!

  2. Love, love, love the heartbeat of your family. It has been amazing to feel the sense of community around Greensboro this week – powerful examples of resurrection coming from absolute devastation. That was actually something our pastor talked about Sunday – resurrection life must be proceeded by death. It’s strange to be thankful for an opportunity to let my own agenda “die” and step in to provide hope to someone else – but I am.

  3. Thank you, Sarah, for loving family, friends, neighbors and everyone you meet on life’s journey and for doing some “self-care,” too, by that Easter morning walk in the woods. Your words, life, love and wisdom expand to and through everyone you “touch”!

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