Thursday, September 1, 2011

Shared. Halved.

Ella Ree is our church custodian, a retired widow who traveled to Virginia to be with family during the hurricane. When it was all over she got a call from her daughter here in Manteo saying that her house had been flooded and most of her belongings ruined. Her daughter said it might be better if she didn’t come home right away until some of the mess could be cleaned up.

I stopped by there on Sunday afternoon to see what I could do to help and ended up grabbing a bunch of sodden clothes, curtains, and bedspreads that needed to be washed; I also told her family that they could run on over to our house for a quick dinner so that they could get a break from working in the soggy, steaming house.

Before I left, I stood and watched them work for a moment and was struck anew by the fact that disaster is not something that just happens to individuals; it is something that happens to generations.


Ella Ree’s daughter, son-in-law, grandson and granddaughter were all hard at work in her petite, tidy home, trying their hardest to preserve memories, baby blankets, precious photos and family treasures. I saw whole generations represented in this small corner of the hurricane’s aftermath and I was touched by the way adults and teenagers alike dropped everything urgent in their lives and ran to rescue what was important. It was one of many hurricane moments that brought tears to my eyes.

But then I thought, “Enough standing around and ruminating! I’ve got just one hour to get a meal together!”

I rushed home and with Sarah’s help, got the table set, a spaghetti bake compiled, muffins baked, vegetables cooked, watermelon cut and brownies made. We were due to eat around 6:30 and at about 6:25 I asked Sarah to call Steve (who was working at the house with the family) to check how things were going.

His answer was just a tad disconcerting. A couple more people had dropped by to help and Ella Ree’s family didn’t want to stop working while they had a crew on hand; could we just bring the meal to them instead?

Um. But of course! One of the guiding principles of my life is this: There is always a Plan B.

Sarah and I sprang into action and transformed the air conditioned, CD-serenaded, place-matted dinner we had planned into a packable, portable, rush-it-to-the-work-site repast.

You’ve heard of people tailgating at a ballgame? Well, we tailgated at a flood site.



While the guys sat outside to eat, Sarah and I made sure that the mom and the teenage son and daughter ate their dinner in our air conditioned van. Sometimes something as small as ten minutes of good food and cold air can make a big difference in one’s outlook on life.



My lovely assistant chef stood watch to see if anyone’s plates or glasses needed replenishing.


When everyone was done, Sarah and Ella Ree’s granddaughter, Katie, were assigned the task of walking about a block away and retrieving Ella Ree’s mailbox which had industriously uprooted itself and floated silently away on the floodwaters.


They returned a few minutes later, flush with their success in the recapturing of the errant mailbox.


As I watched them, I was reminded of the old saying that a burden shared is a burden halved.


Sometimes sharing a burden means spreading out dinner on a tailgate. . .


. . . and other times it means helping a friend bring part of a beloved grandma’s life home again.



(Note: As of yesterday, Ella Ree told us she has decided to move back to Virginia instead of trying to start all over again here. We said a tearful good-bye to her last night at church; we will truly miss our lovely, spunky friend.)


Mrs. Pam said, “Do you know when Sarah's school will open? did it have damage, too?”

School started back up yesterday and while Sarah’s school didn’t get any damage, our local alternative High School and Community College experienced a significant amount of flooding. They’re having to make some alternate arrangements for a while.

Lynnie said, “Looking forward to more pictures and stories of healing after the storm, and am grateful that all is well in the Smithellaneous World!
PS - are there many left without shelter?”

Lynnie, I don’t know the exact answer to that; a few days ago, I saw that it was around a thousand but I know that number varies greatly from day to day. The area has been declared a Disaster Area so we’re hoping that FEMA will begin to help people find and pay for housing. Also, individuals, churches, civic organizations, etc. are doing what they can to help on a case by case basis.

Buff asked, “By the way, is that Darrell's restaurant in your first pic? Eaten many fried shrimp there.”

Buff, you have a good eye! When I saw that picture, I had no idea it was Darrell’s until I saw the caption. That fried shrimp must have had a big impact on you. They are hoping to re-open by the middle of next week.

Robyn said, “I have been a long-time lurker at Sarah Smith's Spot and Smithellaneous, and being visitor 1,000,000 prompted me to finally leave a comment (something I should have done long ago!). I am very grateful to your entire family for sharing so much of your life with us, and your story helped both myself and my mom when she fought colon cancer a couple years ago. Thank you!”

How nice to meet “Visitor One Million!” Thanks so much for de-lurking and signing in; it was wonderful to hear from you. I’m so glad to know that our family and our story has been a help to you and your mom. Thanks so much for letting us know.

Brooke said, “Glad that everything is okay for y'all. it means that the three of you are in a better position to do what God has called you to do (maybe Sarah hasn't been called? somehow i doubt it, sorry - even if she doesn't feel the call to preach, i am assuming that being the daughter of 2 pastors and a cancer Survivor, she feels some kind of call) -- minister, be of comfort, be a support, be present, for those who aren't so fortunate on roanoke island tonight.

Brooke, Sarah definitely has a helper’s heart. She’s been right in the thick of things all week, helping to clean up, move stuff, cook, etc. wherever needed. We’re very proud of her!

Jodi asked, “Are Nathan and Meagan in a safe area as well? And the rest of the Hawleys (and Joy's Family). Love and prayers!”

The family/friends in Florida that you mentioned got some wind and rain but nothing even close to what came to NC. All of them are doing great!

Mary H said, “How is Snowy? Haven't heard much about the other miracle gift in your family lately.”

Mary, you are so right in calling him a miracle. I still look at him in awe as he runs around the house, acting for all the world like a 6-month old puppy. Considering that he was one step from death’s door last December, it is truly amazing that he’s doing so fantastically. Also, he wanted to let everyone know that he’s working on his very own post

Trine asked, “Just curious but how many years do children go to school? Sarah starts 10th grade now but when is she done with school? Here people are finished with high school at 19/20 years old.”

Most kids here graduate around the age of 18; Nathan was seventeen when he graduated, but I (accidentally) started him in home school a year early so he sort of got ahead of himself.

Sarah will be eighteen; even though she had to repeat second grade due to her cancer treatment, she will still be graduating right on time. I had started her in home school a year early too because she was so interested in her brother’s school work that she begged me to let her start!

4 Had Something To Say (Just click here!):

Love Being A Nonny said...

So many hurting people. One small act of kindness. They will never forget. God bless the people in Manteo.

Anonymous said...

Did I say how proud we are of you Smiths? :-) Love you!

deb and the guys

Sarah said...

That looks like a lovely meal! During the summer of 1998, there was a huge flood here. We got 40 inches of water in the basement. My parents were so busy with cleanup they didn't have tme to mow the lawn. So a church member came over and mowed the whole lawn for us. It meant so much to us.

Anonymous said...

I have read Sarah's website and your blog for a long time. My husband and I lost our home to Hurricane Katrina only 4 weeks after we married and began living together in our first home. Your post today brought back memories of all the kindness that was shown to us after the devastation we faced. A cold drink of water, an offer of a place to stay, countless hugs, and so much more. Thanks for sharing! I wish I had the chance to volunteer with the Red Cross to pay back what was given to us and to offer a hug and say, "You can handle this. We are here for you!"
Ocean Springs, MS