Sunday, January 10, 2016

Battle for Good over Evil after Tornado Outbreak


The moment stood still in my mind, though I heard work buzzing on all around us as as we stood in the Wylie Dollar General store as Shelley, one of the store managers, uttered the words, "There was something about her; some mannerisms; it just concerned me." She was concerned about a woman who, just a short time before we stepped foot in the store, had told the manager she was there to pick up all the donations for the First Baptist Church of Copeville.

We were discussing with Shelley why my husband and I were in the Dollar General buying up their supply of bandages, gauze, ointments, peroxide and alcohol, pain relievers, cough and cold medicine for adults and kids, antacids, and even feminine napkins.

Only a few days earlier, Jamee Cook at First Baptist Church of Copeville had suggested we use some funds my parents were sending for the tornado survivors. to buy small sizes of just about everything at the dollar store so we could help as many people affected as possible.

I was happy my parents had wanted to help out and they sent a very nice check for the efforts. I recall back to the moment the storm passed over us and I felt utter relief. I had to call my parents and let them know we were safe because I knew they would be worried when they heard it on their 11 O'clock news that evening.

As I chatted, I turned on the light to the patio and was greeted with the sight of debris. It was very confusing and I'm certain I began talking gibberish at that moment. My mom said she better let me go.

I had only met Jamee at the church a few days after that when my youngest son and I heeded their Facebook call for plastic storage bins, work gloves, and batteries to aid those who were trying to clean up their shredded homes.

After turning up the road next to the disintegrated Willard's convenience store, the feed store and the daycare, we picked our way to this grayish white little church with a steeple out in the country. Seeing organized chaos as we stepped in, we could tell that more than anything they needed help, and when I asked who was in charge of the volunteer and donation efforts, several people pointed to the kitchen and confidently said, "Jamee."

Indeed, there stood a very attractive, youngish woman with long, dark brown hair, and some interesting piercings. Surprisingly, I felt an instant kinship with her. She is a bit like me; someone who takes charge in a situation when others are left wringing their hands and unable to organize. We are organizers.

The work seemed never ending. Steams of cars, trucks, and trailers brought donations. At night when everyone was gone, other interesting things showed up, like a new in the box trampoline, and an old, 1960s chair covered in cloth with a cut velvet green floral pattern, but missing the seat cushion. Hells bells, what is someone going to do with that?

There is that moment in time when you see all that is good in this country clash with all that is bad. As various family members and I worked the next couple days sorting clothing, boxing them up, and sorting them again after they were moved to the rectory, you cannot help but wonder about the psyche of people and why they do what they do.

Part of the circumstances were filled with well-meaning folks donating what they could to help out, because in an instant there were people in the community who had lost everything and needed something. But did they need the soiled thermal underwear? Did they need the bustier and box of sexy lingerie my son unpacked? Did they need a massive men's 2XL Ghostbuster's jumpsuit costume I unpacked?

In this time when people were giving, and feeling good for it, there was an element of well thought out giving, but there was also an element of not taking the time to go through the donations that had been sitting in their storage closet for months. Unfortunately, there was also a bit of just cleaning out their garages, to make it someone else's problem.

We did as Jamee directed. She needed someone to sort those clothes by gender and size, and we accomplished that to the extent that I earned the name, "The clothes guru." That's me, the germaphobe who was the least likely person to be sorting through people's soiled clothing and shoes. But I did it because it needed to be done. Then the slathering of antibacterial lotion commenced once safely in my car, and I showered as soon as I got home.

Still, there were others who brought brand new clothing with the tags still on. Someone had gone to Kohl's and shopped the clearance racks, bringing some very well thought out clothing items. Some people from wealthier areas like Sachse's Woodbridge bagged up their teen daughter's clothes from Abercrombie and Fitch as well as beautiful business clothing in every size.

Some brought underwear and socks that must have been brand new for Christmas, never worn yet, but freshly unpacked into their drawers and then removed and bagged because someone else needed them more. And there were those blanket rolls. Dozens of people must have received fleece blanket rolls for Christmas and there were piles of them, one with a little bit of wrapping paper and tape still stuck to it.

It's not as much about the quality of the donations as the thought behind them that really counts here.

Then there is the woman who promised she was at the Dollar General to pick up the wall full of donations to take to First Baptist Church of Copeville. I sent a text to my new fast friend Jamee and she checked around for me. Nobody had delivered a trailer full of Dollar General donations.

The delivery had not been made the day after either, as I stood in the church with the handful of other volunteers who I have gotten to know by face, and none of them know of this woman bringing the items. I will not go into any details here because I believe there should be a police investigation into the matter. But still, who does that?

It's so difficult to imagine the evil that exists still in all the good I have witnessed during this cleanup effort. From companies donating their time to feed volunteers or haul away rubbish, to complete strangers descending upon this little known church from as far away as Dallas, Decatur, and Lone Oak, and working side by side with strangers to sort clothes. To the most difficult task my husband and a group of volunteers and Boy Scouts took on in helping move a retired police officer's scattered belongings into two donated PODS, so that he would no longer have to camp out at his shattered home because he caught looters there the night before.

Then there is the wonderful BBQ group Operation BBQ Relief that travels all over the country feeding volunteers and victims during tragedy. These people are an incredible blessing and the rest of the funds my mom and dad sent to help out will be donated to them. Every day that we helped out at the church, we were fed their hot, delicious BBQ meal, and the food was even boxed up and taken out to cleanup volunteers and tornado survivors at their homes and in the field.

This group fed volunteers and survivors in Garland, Rowlett, Farmersville, and Copeville, and also traversed to other areas in the country who were flooded.

You just never know about these types of organizations until you need them, and I am so grateful for their service and hope I can give back what I took in the meals.

What drives people to do evil when there is so much good around? How can someone pretend they are tornado victims and shop the donations at the church? This is precisely what happened the first night I helped sort clothing. What I thought were two displaced families, were people who came in pretending to have lost their house. They shopped the clothing, even offering to open boxes and "help" which in reality meant they wanted to shop the boxes as well.

When they were politely forced to leave because they were in the way of volunteers sorting and because one of the volunteers knew they had no damage, they went to the First Baptist Church in Famersville to shop their donations. They were found out because they complained to Farmersville that Copeville turned them away and a volunteer in Farmersville called Copeville to ask why. These people even went so far as to show photos of someone else's damaged house on their cell phones to the Farmersville volunteers.

How does someone do that? How do you take stuff donated by kind-hearted people, which is meant for someone else in need, and lie about it in the hallowed house of God?

Shelley from Dollar General said that if people had been really bad in this world, they could possibly make it into heaven for doing what my husband and I were there doing, buying bags full of medicines for others. Yet we don't want recognition. I only mention our help because there is a compelling story to tell, and it should be heard.

My family, friends and I helped this little community because we are so incredibly grateful that it wasn't us. And I like to think that if that tornado had remained on it's path toward Wylie, that our neighbors from Copeville would have come out to help us.

That tornado was above us, because it rained down rubbish all over our neighborhood. In doing so, it sent me out of the comfort of my home and domain, and forced me to do something for someone else, something for someone other than myself. That tornado forced me to meet some incredible people I would never have met otherwise.

It's no surprise why I like Jamee so much. She leads her own battle for women who are left sickened by their breast implants. She seems to be a one-woman army of compassion, intelligence, and the will to educate women about it by sharing her own story.

I've seen good and I've seen bad in this effort, and sadly the bad is what leaves such a bad taste in my mouth for humanity. Still, we cannot allow those few bad people to dissuade us from helping others and from doing good. We must not allow ourselves to become overwrought with cynicism. It's not as easy as it sounds though.

I can only continue to do what I do to help others, and know that somewhere a just God sits and watches, and I find comfort in the knowledge that those who need to be judged harshly, will be.