Monday, May 26, 2014

When Disaster Strikes in a Small Town

I'm not entirely sure all this is gonna make sense, or sound the way I mean for it to. But my mind has been running a million miles an hour all day, and I've gotta get it out somewhere. So here I am.

If you watch any kind of news at all, or have been online at all today, you probably heard about the massive mudslide that spread for miles in all directions, and has left three men missing in a remote Colorado town. That's here, folks, right here in our Tiny Little Town. My kids were sledding up there at a friends' house this winter. My husband and daughter traveled the same trail that those guys were on, just last fall. And then, between the huge amount of snowmelt and a big rainstorm, in the blink of an eye, a "cataclysmic" disaster occurred. An entire chunk of a mountain collapsed, and somewhere out there in all of it are three of our neighbors.

Neighbors. That's a small town thing, one I've had to get used to. See, up here, we're all neighbors. It doesn't matter if you're a down-the-road neighbor or an across-the-valley neighbor. We share this town. We're neighbors. There aren't strangers here, unless they are tourists or out-of-town hunters. When we go to town to run errands, seeing an unfamiliar face is an uncommon occurrence. We don't all know each other well - though many of us do - but you can't help but know the folks that share a town this small with you.

It's a strange thing. I lived in The Big City for almost fifteen years, and in that amount of time, I amassed a circle of folks I cared about that included about 20 people. I never saw anyone I knew when I went to the hardware store, and they sure didn't ask about my kids. But here... in only two and a half years, we know and care about so many people! These people, the ones here in this Tiny Little Town, they aren't just taking up space on a city block. They are the lifeblood of this community. Each and every one has a place here, a meaningful existence that makes this place what it is. You wave to every person you pass on the road. You chat about your families when you stand in line to buy a pack of gum. You know where each person lives, you know their parents and kids, and you really care about them. It's so hard to explain. It's intimidating and overwhelming, and it's positively beautiful. There aren't many places like this in the world anymore and if you haven't experienced it, it's hard to imagine.

So when things like this happen - when three men are missing in the outskirts of town - it affects every single person who lives here. You see it when you walk down the street - what is supposed to be a Memorial Day celebration turns into people just being together, praying and caring and hurting and worrying. But they do it together. Each person I know up here is so independent. But when all of those independent, capable people come together, something incredible happens.

And these country folk - one of which I myself am becoming - they are a different breed. There's no sitting around, wishing they could do something. No. They get the details, they sit in shock for five minutes and try to comprehend what has happened. And then they take action. Country folks don't sit around and wait for someone else to come take care of them. Life up here just doesn't allow that, and people that live this kind of life couldn't do that if they wanted to. They get to work, finding every way they can to help one another, to do something. They may not be able to go out and search for the missing, but there is plenty else to do, and you can bet it's going to be done.

Doors are opened, welcoming anyone that might need to evacuate. Our only restaurant opened, even when they should be closed, to feed the emergency workers. (Remember, there's virtually nowhere to get a meal up here.) Donations were sought and gathered from across the valley - water and gatorade, food of all kinds, shovels and gloves, enough to keep the emergency personnel fed for days.

It's not the first time I've seen this. It's just amazing, mind boggling, really, how much everyone in this community cares so deeply for one another. How they will drop everything they are doing to find a way to help, give everything they have if someone else has need for it. How they come together to create something so powerful that it can overcome anything - even a disaster like this. Everything might turn out okay. Or it might not. But either way, the families of those involved will be wrapped in a kind of love that only a small town can offer. They will be taken care of in every way they need.

This is why we moved here. It's not for the views. It's not for the wildlife. It's not for the solace and the quiet and the beauty of nature. That's all secondary. We came here so our girls could grow up knowing what a real community feels like, so they would be a part of it, so they would be just like all the people that have lived here for so long - caring, generous, capable, helpful... and part of something so much larger than themselves.


Please pray for our missing neighbors. Pray for our hurting community of incredible people. Pray for the rescue and emergency personnel. The people up here are capable of a lot, but there comes a point when we all need God to step in and take care of what we can't.