There are many
different levels of disasters.
My daughter's room after a 12 minute play-date:
My teenager's closet after he "organizes" his room:
My RH's bedside table (which is piled so high with
Really...I've found that I use that word kinda often.
The state of my garage,
An attempt to make banana bread in a convection oven,
The basement after a ping pong tournament,
The kitchen table after six kids devoured cupcakes,
The idea of doing "summer math",
RH's dog's encounter with a skunk,
Shake's being out of wedding cake for my concrete.....
All things I've labeled "disasters."
Minor inconveniences, really.
Many of them are even kind of humorous.
(But not the Shake's one. Not at all.)
Those are different.
A tornado ripping through your town?
A tornado taking away someone you love?
Even way way worse.
Disasaters are relative....
and there is always something worse.
My family and I saw our town turn into a disaster area a little over two years ago.
'Ol Obama himself came and declared us an official disaster zone.
We walked over it.
We climbed on it.
We smelled it.
We lived in it.
It was hard...
And sometimes kind of scary.
But after a while we became somewhat....
Accustomed to it?
Used to it?
Pretty blasé about it?
You almost have to, sometimes.
Then a year later we were in Indiana a few weeks after some horrible tornadoes had ripped through several communities.
The damage was no where as wide spread as Joplin....but it was pretty nasty.
I was worried about how the kids would react to seeing the damage around us.
Would they have flashbacks?
Would it be scary to them?
Would it bring back memories they'd worked to overcome?
We pulled into town and came up to some of the more damaged areas and turned off the kids' (mind-numbing keep-'em-quiet for the trip) movie and told them to look.
And kind of shrugged their shoulders.
"Looks like Joplin. Not as bad. Where are the people we can help?"
Have they become numb to disasters?
Are they compartmentalizing?
Have they run out empathy?
Fast forward to Hurricane Sandy.
I have family on Long Island.
They had to evacuate and we kept in close contact with them.
When the ocean met the bay over their home....we tried to convince them to come to Missouri.
("Forget it! Too many tornadoes there!" )
My kids were worried about their relatives....
But didn't seem too shocked by the pictures of the damage.
When we went to New York this summer and saw a boat still in someone's front yard they thought it was interesting.
We were in Moore, Oklahoma this summer where the damage is still quite fresh.
I believe that it's an official disaster as well....thank you Mr. Obama.
Again....the kids were relatively unimpressed with the rubble fields previously known as homes around them.
Again....they kept their eyes peeled for people we could make contact with.
People who wanted to tell their stories.
People who wanted to be heard.
People who wanted cookies.
That afternoon we went to the Memorial Museum for the Okalhoma City Bombing.
(Side note: That might be the most impressive and heart-wrenching place I've been to.
Impossible not to be touched deeply.)
Lots of pictures and examples of the debris.
Lots of survivor stories.
Lots of tributes to those who were lost.
As I walked around I noticed that my kids were drawn to the pictures of rescuers.
They seemed most interested in the stories of the people who came to help.
They loved seeing a wall of T-shirts with all of the places on them that people had come from to help.
I realize my kids have been exposed
(purposely in some cases)
to many "disaster areas".
I've had people question my reasoning and parenting in allowing them to see these things.
Here's the deal.
I did NOT choose to expose them to their first "big disaster."
But it happened.
And they saw.
And....as they kept seeing....
Their focus became directed toward the "helpers."
to how they could help.
Apparently the legendary Mr. Roger's had a quote he used when disasters were unfolding:
"Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."
My kids have not seen Mr. Rogers.
I'm relatively certain they have no idea who he is.
Kids (and people) WANT to find the good.
They WANT to find the helpers.
They naturally search for the good....the Godly....the pure .....in the midst of disasters.
Even when I find myself tearfully aghast at someone's story....
I have a kid tugging on my sleeves and smiling and waving at volunteers walking toward us.
They look for the good
Because they know there IS good.
Have I done something to teach them this?
They just haven"t (perhaps)
Grown up enough to become negatively focused.
Where I might see shattered dreams....
They see cool youth groups coming to help clear someone's lot.
Where I might fixate on the "could have been so bad"'s.....
They focus on the "it turned out ok!"
When I might see an overwhelmingly huge (literal) debris field...
They notice the sunflower growing next to piles of smashed homes.
My kids have shown me lots.
Some of it I don't always want to see
But....when I do see what they see....
I find hope.
And don't kids live in a perpetual state of hope?
And isn't that a pretty darn good state in which to live?
(Less tornados there, I think.)
I think it's ok for my kids to see real life.
I think them seeing that bad things can happen
(because they do)
is ok because THEN they see how goodness blooms out of all of that dirt.
That being said...
I don't let them watch certain movies.
I turn off the news when certain stories come on.
I monitor what they see on the computer.
I want to preserve their innocence to certain kinds of ugliness for as long as I can.
That someday they will be thrust out from under my wings into the real cold scary world.
I pray that by then they will be so good at looking for...
the good things,
the way God brings beauty out of disaster..
That they will be able to keep on keepin' on without
That they will be able to look past the "yuck" and find the hope.
And...that they will be able to search for ways to serve and help.
I want my kids (and I want myself!)
to know know know know know
that in the midst of any type of disaster....
God is there.
And when He is there,
Because He is there...
And doesn't God, in His awesomeness, sometimes use people to show other people how He loves??
By being there...
By being in the "disasters"...
By being ready and available....
Maybe we can be lucky enough to be used.
So we will keep on.
Trying to be there.
Looking for ways to help.
Searching for the good.
Pointing out the helpers.
Learning gradually daily minutely to focus on the bits of beauty amidst the chaos.
we will even be able to find the clean spot on my daughter's floor and use it to stand in as we begin cleaning up the mess.