Monday, May 10, 2010

Sneezing Gypsum

After a week spent driving to work through my devastated neighborhood, I finally got the opportunity on Saturday to do something about it. I, along with hundreds of other volunteers, helped clean up flood-ravaged homes.

Our job was to stabilize the homes and get the homeowner in a position to begin rebuilding. This meant demolishing and removing everything—right down to the concrete slab and the wooden studs. Then the home will be sprayed and disinfected. After that, rebuilding begins.

It was hard work, but it was rewarding. I tore out drywall (my new nemesis), popped out window sills, and pried up carpet tacking. Collectively, we were able to accomplish what would have been a monumental task for a family or an expensive one for a contractor.

I was impressed by the spirit in the neighborhood. Individually or with a company, people streamed by offering water, free food, and free supplies. Children would tote a wagon full of trash bags and alcohol wipes. The Purity Dairy man carted around a cooler full of ice cream and popsicles (he was popular).

It was hard to hear the homeowner's stories, but sometimes that was what they most needed. Many of them are older and have a lifetime's worth of memories in pictures and letters that are now gone. Carrying bits and pieces of their home out to the huge debris piles was tough. One lady stopped us as we carried out her fireplace mantel.

"Can't we save this?" She ran her hands over the top. We turned it to show her the other side so she could make her decision. The submerged wood had dried and split; the back was black with the beginnings of mold.

She sighed. "I guess not. Throw it away." There were many decisions like that one throughout the day.

On Sunday, after a 6:30 a.m. worship service , we returned. Another house. Another tear out job. My body aches, but every bit of me that is sore is worth it. It was a massive reminder that I am so incredibly blessed. Not just in having my home, but in every possible way—spiritually and emotionally, I am rich in faith, in family, and in friends. If this had happened to me, knowing that people care so much would make all the difference in the world to how I would get through it.

To see this unfold on my doorstep is so different than just reading about it. It tends to stamp out a lot of pettiness and materialism. It has also shown me that we are capable of so, so much more than we realize. I've probably never had quite a work ethic as I brought to the table this weekend. It's incredibly motivating.

There is still much to do, however. Nashville is still bleeding. Clean up and rebuilding is an ongoing process, and we need to ensure no one falls through the cracks. If you can volunteer your time, Service International is continuing to send out crews from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. from Bellevue Church of Christ until further notice. You can find more information here, or just shoot me a comment.


  1. What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing it with us.


  2. Thank you, Lola. Appreciate it.