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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Storms, stress, and the generosity of children.

So, friends, it's been awhile. Family has gotten in the way of writing, and I have to say that I haven't minded it one bit. We celebrated a graduation, we are about to celebrate two birthdays (my oldest two), packed up donations for tornado-torn Joplin, MO, and I began my summer classes at SIUE.


When the massive tornado struck Joplin, MO, we were in Kansas City visiting friends (That would be you, Rob & Erica). We had arrived at their house late in the afternoon on Saturday, and after an hour or so of socializing, Jim fell asleep. He proceeded to sleep through the Rapture-as-predicted-by-Harold-Camping. (the Rapture was predicted, not the fact that my husband slept through it) Later that evening, after some good stir-fry, conversation and a little crochet, the sirens started going. We got as far as making a grab-n-go plan for getting everyone into the basement hallway, but the danger quickly passed and we were all able to get some sleep.


We spent the following afternoon at a graduation party for a friend we met at the Kansas City Renaissance Faire. Not twenty minutes into the party, someone broke out the rubber weapons... The kids were soon all out on the front lawn and spilling into the street challenging each other and dueling with foam swords. My youngest, finding that she was too small to fight anyone else, resorted to dueling the balloons tied to the party sign in the front yard.


The drive home was an adventure in itself. The rain started about halfway home, and soon graduated to hail, lightning and high winds. Several times I was tempted to pull off the road, but didn't for fear that I would be unable to force myself to get back on the road if I did. Jim tried to help by accessing the radar map on his phone. "It looks like you can get out ahead of it in about 5 miles," he said. And then a few minutes later, "There must be a delay on the map, because we should have cleared it by now." And a few minutes after that, "It should clear up a few miles ahead, it looks like the storm is blowing North." And then, "Wait, it must be moving Northeast, because it's still on top of us." To which I finally said,"Do you *want* me to cry?" 


I was ready to break under the stress, and I really wanted to be home and asleep. The last thing I wanted to do was stop, but the kids said they needed to use the bathroom. So after eighty miles (and over two hours) of white-knuckle driving, I pulled off the road at a gas station.


I went inside with Suzy to use the bathroom, and when I came back to the car Jim was in the driver's seat. I was simultaneously annoyed and relieved. Annoyed because part of me insisted that I could handle it and that I didn't need help. And relieved because I knew that I could use the break, and that if he had not done that, I would have continued to drive and stress myself further. I never would have admitted to needing help, and I certainly never would have asked for it. Thank God for a husband who gives me what I need when I am too stubborn to ask for it myself, eh?


The irony is, about five minutes after we got back on the highway the storm did break, and for the last hour of the drive we battled mist and light rain...


We awoke the next morning to news of the terrible F5 tornado that practically demolished the city of Joplin, MO. And we realized quickly that the storm we had been driving in was most likely the same one, only after it had weakened considerably.


That day, I heard about the family of a Veteran who had lost everything in that storm. He, his wife, and their two little boys had been fortunate enough to get out of their house before the storm leveled it, but some of them had not even had time to put on shoes. I got out a box and started to fill it with clothing and towels. Evie (3) asked me what I was doing. I explained to her that there were some little boys who lost all of their clothes and toys because the big storm broke their house. She disappeared into her room, and came back moments later with a stuffed hippo from her prized collection. Without a word, she dropped it into the box. A few minutes later, Brooklyn (4), came into my room with her bean bag puppy. "I love this puppy, and I want the little boys to love it too." I hadn't even realized that she was listening when I had explained things to Evie. When Kevin (8) and Suzy (6) got home from school, they were ready to help as well. 


I was thinking about how blessed I am to have such great kids. Two years ago, Kevin asked me to stop the car so that he could give his lunch to a homeless man at Fort Leonard Wood. (I did.) And I realized that they have a few good examples.


Two Christmases ago, Jim drove to Fort Leonard Wood to see me on Christmas Eve. He brought with him a trunk full of baked goods - basically what was left at the bakery when they closed for the weekend - and went with me to the hospital on base to deliver them to the soldiers who were working through the Christmas Holiday.


And my father, when I was little, set an example I will never forget. My parents didn't have much money, so my dad took the city bus to work and my mother packed a sandwich for him to eat at work every day. He loved to run, and sometimes he would run during his lunch break at work. He asked my mom if she could pack him an extra sandwich every day so that he had enough to eat after his workout. For awhile she did, but then money got so tight that she couldn't send an extra sandwich. She noticed that after she stopped sending the extra sandwich, my dad was exceptionally hungry when he came home from work every day. What he finally told her was that the extra sandwich had been his only source of food during the work day - he had been leaving his lunch every day for months for a homeless man who slept on a bench by his bus stop.


That kind of generosity is hard to come by these days, but I'm glad it seems to be manifesting itself in my children. The world needs more of that kind of love.

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