We Are The Helpers
When disaster strikes, we see the true humanity of the people around us. It is our natural desire to want to help those in need. And all of us play different roles and help in different ways. All of those roles are important and necessary on the long road to recovery. Many of us identify with several or even all of these, but nearly all of us fall into at least one.
These people are heroes! They are the ones who run into the danger instead of away from it. We saw our law enforcement officers, firefighters, and National Guard jumping into action as soon as the flooding began. But, we also saw something amazing. Thousands of civilians took it upon themselves to assist and rescue their neighbors and people they have never met. By now, most all of us have heard of the official and unofficial #CajunNavy, the group of locals and others from far and wide who brought their boats and high water vehicles to our area, saving countless lives. A pastor and group from a local church went as soon as Academy opened Saturday morning and purchased a canoe to evacuate church members and their neighbors. A friend and mother of two was waist deep in flood water for hours on end making sure people and pets alike made it to safety. These are just two of thousands of stories that will be told for years to come.
The volunteers are the first to show up at the shelters. They sort clothes and donation, serve food, and offer shoulders to cry on. They keep the kids occupied when they get stir crazy. They aren’t afraid of hard work or hard conversations. They’ll do anything asked of them to make sure that survivors are as comfortable as possible.
The givers may not be able to physically volunteer (though many of them do), but they heed the call for help without hesitation. They send money and supplies, make grocery runs, and shop on Amazon Prime Wishlists expecting no recognition. The selfless givers help those in need start to feel normal again. In addition to thousands of individual givers around the nation, our local churches and organizations waste no time making sure they are on the front lines to give.
The Information Hubs:
These are the businesses and individuals who make sure information about how to give and receive help is spread far and wide. They are the news stations whose anchors work 18 hour days to provide continuous coverage. They are the companies like Atmosphere Aerial who provide drone footage so residents who have evacuated can see the status of their homes. They are the admins of the Facebook groups that form for people to post addresses of those who need rescuing and deploy someone to find them. And they are the people, like our contributor Sarah Joy Hays, who use their national and local connections to compile detailed and quickly changing information for those wanting to help and those needing assistance. But they are also the everyday people, like you and me, who share resources on social media, tag friends who they know can benefit, and search endlessly for answer to questions from friends who need a hand.
The Safe Havens:
When thousands are displaced, they long for comfy beds, warm showers, and clean clothes. The safe havens meet those needs. They may be formal shelters, but more often, they are your friends and neighbors who offer up their homes as a refuge. Those who don’t have spare rooms volunteer to provide child care during clean up, wash laundry, and cook meals. They provide the little blessings that are often overlooked in times of need.
The Cleanup Crew:
Cleaning up after a flood or other natural disaster is back breaking and heart breaking work. The cleanup crew doesn’t mind a bit. They are the first to volunteer to rip up your floors, knock out some drywall and carry your soggy furniture to the curb. They will work from sun up to sun down without complaint. Many of them show up at the homes of people they have never met willing to do whatever is needed to help. Even the South Louisiana mosquitoes are no match for these amazing humans!
After a trauma, our first instinct is often to give advice or words of comfort. There is certainly a time and place for this, but what many survivors really need is a listener. Someone who can let them voice all of their feelings without judgement or unwanted advice. Who will not start a sentence with “Well at least…” and who simply listen to hear. The listeners may be counselors or social workers. They are often your coworkers or your friends. They aren’t waiting to get a word in edgewise. They simply hold the space so that survivors can let off some of that weight on their shoulders. The listeners receive little recognition, but they are priceless.
When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would have not a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’. -Erma Bombeck