9.18.2008

IKE STORIES: A Warm Meal is Like Home

I typically use writing to help me process through things, so I might be writing about Ike a good bit over the next few posts. After the storm, over 2 million people were without power. We were "powerless" (in the words of Donald Butler) and also completely exhausted because this particular storm was soooo huge that it just went on throughout the entire night and half the next day.

After the storm passed, I really wanted to go home to my apartment. Mainly to check on things, and also to just feel a little bit like I was at home. As I left the Butlers in the early afternoon on Saturday and drove out in the Fairfield area, it was interesting to see the actual effects of the awful wind we heard all night. To see the devastation all over was surreal.

As I was almost home I noticed I had a voicemail on my cell phone. Cell phones weren't ringing - and it was difficult to call on them, but a message would show up at random times (its still doing this 6 days later).

It was from Stephanie, a friend of mine who left a message saying she already had her power back and for me to come over if I wanted. I didn't call her back because it was almost impossible to call out on cell phones at this point. But mainly it was because I just wanted to go home.

As I drove up into my complex, it was incredible. This complex was built to look like it's in a forest. There were trees down everywhere (thankfully not on our roof) and debris all over the place. We obviously didn't have power. I hauled all my stuff up to the third story of my building and dropped everything in the floor and sat on the couch a minute to settle and let things begin to process. I was completely exhausted.

But it was sooo hot. I looked on my thermostat and it registered 86 inside my house (3rd floors are hot). So I opened the balcony door and tried to get still on my couch to take a nap but it just wasn't happening.

Then I remembered that phone call from my friend Stephanie and I thought, "Sherry, this is ridiculous...it's stupid to be here in the heat with no power, when your friend has power, showers and all the nice things that go with it." So I picked up the bags I'd just dropped in the floor a few minutes before and went right back downstairs and loaded them in the car and drove right to Stephanie's house.

I walked in her door; into her nice, cool house and breathed a sigh of relief. After we sat there talking for a little while, they jumped up and said, "Let’s make spaghetti for dinner." I thought that sounded wonderful after all we'd been through. The smells were amazing as they cooked and then we sat down to eat.

As I was sitting there I thought to myself, “this warm meal....it just feels like home.” You know, the feeling you get when no matter what is happening to you or has happened to you…“home,” makes you feel like everything’s gonna be alright. I know that sounds crazy, but that's what it really felt like to me. And I felt it even more as I got to take a nice shower, blow dry my hair and get into a bed and sleep awhile.

A few days later I was coordinating disaster relief for COF. There was this one person who did not ask me for help, but another friend of hers called me and told me that this particular lady was having financial trouble before the storm and she couldn’t afford to stock up before it. And then her power had been out several days and she had to throw away everything in her refrigerator and freezer and she didn't know what she was going to do. She said she was crying. My heart broke. Then in an email a little while later, another church member mentioned to me that he works for a restaurant and would be getting off at 8pm that night and wanted to know if anyone could use a warm meal. I knew immediately what he should do, and I had him take it to this lady.

Now most of you might think a warm meal isn't much, or that it's very temporary. I've even thought it myself for a moment when I saw the Red Cross setting up a mobile feeding station in the parking lot of a grocery store. All they were handing out was one warm meal to people. I caught myself, but before I did, I was asking..."shouldn't they use that money on something else that could be more lasting?" Then I remembered the spaghetti that Stephanie and her family made for me and I thought, "No way, a warm meal means everything....it makes you feel like home, like everything’s gonna be ok."

Don't underestimate what the little things mean to people. That's my lesson in this.

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