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Why We Help With Disaster Recovery | Mary Biever | One Writing Mother

Why We Help With Disaster Recovery

A news story tonight, of how people rallied to rebuild a home for a Harrisburg, Illinois, single mother who lost everything in tornado and had another baby this week, made me cry. The mother said she didn’t know how, but she said, “One day I will do something like this for another family.” I knew part of what she felt and thought back to my own reasons for helping with disasters.

Losing everything changes your whole world.  At those darkest moments – in our case, as we wore borrowed clothes in church the morning after our home and business burned 11 years ago, we had no idea where we would go or what we would do. And we had 2 young children.

Friends, some we knew well and some we didn’t, all helped us in incredible ways. Several put their own lives on hold to help us when we need it the most. I don’t know what we would have done without them.

Though I describe it in more detail in my book, He Uses It For Good, there are some ways people helped I will never forget:

  • When we had 15 minutes to clear our home and office after the fire, friends helped us carry and drag our business equipment up what had been basement stairs to save what we could of our business.
  • Later that night, as I sat at a pharmacy waiting to pick up a prescription, in my smoked clothes, I burst into tears. A woman sitting beside me, who didn’t know us, handed me a $20 bill and told me we needed it more than she did.
  • Friends helped us with housing and childcare in the months that we rebuilt.
  • Friends worked with our church and helped set us up in a temporary apartment and collected enough dishes and groceries to set up temporary housekeeping.

I honestly do not know what we would have done without the help of friends, family, and strangers. There is no way I can ever repay those who helped us. All we can do is pay it forward. Maybe we can’t save everyone or end world suffering. But if we each help how we can, great things will happen.

I helped what I could when others suffered loss. In my heart, I knew when my kids were grown I would do more.

That day hasn’t yet arrived, but I’ve started preparing to volunteer with the Red Cross. They do an excellent job of training disaster volunteers in advance so they are prepared when disasters happen.

If something horrific happens in our area, if you want to find me, I’ll be at the Red Cross helping where needed.

Helping with a disaster isn’t glamorous. It may involve:

  • setting up cots in a shelter
  • delivering water to a shelter
  • answering telephones
  • responding to queries.

As I’ve met other volunteers, I’ve met some with stories like mine, who are paying forward help we were once given.

In my case, when that call for help comes, I feel like a rush like I’m one of the stormchasers in the movie Twister.  As I look for some way to help, I hear the voice of Mordecai in the Old Testament story of Esther, when he tells Esther her life has been preparation for such a time as this. I know my own life experiences prepared me to help others in such as time as disasters.

I can now do this for other families when needed.


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