Monday, May 9, 2011

right now...

...i'm sitting in my bed, leaning against some pillows as i type. heat is coming off of my back shoulders, making this daily ritual a littles less comfortable than normal. the reason for the heat and its accompanying sting is something that happens to me far too easily: sunburn.

it happened on saturday as i spent the day cleaning up yards in pratt city, alabama, a small area that was hard-hit in the disastrous series of tornadoes week before last.

i kept having to remind myself that i was merely 20 minutes from my apartment, not amidst the impoverished mountains of tegucigalpa, honduras. it's hard to believe that a mere drive down the interstate from the regality of Samford and mountain brook's castle-like homes is devastation so severe it appears third-world.

i kept having these swells of emotion that left me near tears, but i think what kept me from losing it was the vast spectrum of feelings that were occurring simultaneously and with equal intensity. i was too overwhelmed to start crying.

part of me was undone by the damage and the pieces of peoples lives- teddy bears, parasols, tricycles- that had come from who knows how far and clothes hanging in closets without walls or roofs and the church building, crunched like a dollhouse dropped in a driveway with a pew sticking out of the top of it and the national guard armed and uniformed on every street corner.

other parts of of me swelled with joy and amazement at the number of volunteers and especially at a tent full of women beside the doll-house church. a huge grill sat just outside the tent and they were surrounded by tables with hundreds of brown lunch bags sorted on top of them and coolers full of water and soda. the bags were filled with food and the women offered them to any and everyone walking past. they weren't rationing the food or soliciting forced gratitude the way people helping sometimes do. they were a bunch of mothers and the white tent was their temporary kitchen. they were there to love and serve and care and laugh. their common desire was that every person who walked past left with more food than they needed. as i watched them serve i couldn't help but think i was experiencing a micro-sliver of what heaven will be like.

working all day was the perfect outlet for the intensity of my feelings. at first, it was hard to feel like i was really doing anything. the damage in a single yard was seemingly endless, and alone, i am capable so little. but the thing is, no one is really capable of that much alone. it's not until we all get together and do the the little bit of which we're individually able that anything can really happen.

during the second half of the day we found ourselves standing in an oblong circle around the edge of a mass of the branches of at least two trees that had overtaken a man's backyard when they'd fallen wednesday night before last. the man was kind and seemingly peaceful. he needed a chainsaw and our group had one and so we went to work, moving branches as the men cut them. i found myself using my strength training, squatting low to the ground, grabbing huge limbs and pulling them up and out into the yard's outer edge, trying to use my legs more than my arms so i wouldn't strain anything.

we worked for hours, moving branch after branch. some of them were big enough that it took two of us to move them. i was loving that i was capable of moving whatever i wanted. there was this one section of the tree's trunk i'd watched the men cut. i'd had my eye on it for awhile. when we'd moved all the limbs and were waiting on the chainsaw to cut more, i made my way to the piece of trunk and started to move it. i was making some headway when an old man with a round belly and a straw hat took several bowl-legged, hop-like strides towards me, "too heavy little lady!" he crowed, "yer gonna hurt yerself."

i was annoyed, pissed actually. but not wanting to be disrespectful, i smiled and said, "sorry, sir. i get a little ambitious at times" then he offered me some sunscreen for which i was apparently too late, hence the redness of my back and shoulders.

but regardless of whether i moved the branches alone or with someone else or not at all, i was just so proud of myself for being physically able to move them. there are times throughout the past five years that i remember reveling in my physical weakness, wearing it like a medal of honor, feeling completely capable of incapability. i could run with the best of anyone, but when it came to muscle and strength, i wanted to feel like i'd reduced myself to such a skin and bone state that i was unable to lift anything. i went from being a base on the cheerleading squad my sophomore year of high school, to people telling me i was going to have to get a bone density test if i even wanted to try out again as a flyer ( which i didn't end up doing). sometimes i would attempt things of which i knew i was incapable, just so i could hear someone tell me a little scrawny thing like me shouldn't try such things. those comments were to me as a rush of water is to a dry tongue. nothing could've satisfied me more.

the larger implication of me loving that i was weak was the fact the i loved that i couldn't offer anyone anything. as my group and i moved branches, we watched a man's yard slowly reappear. it was an incredible feeling to know that taking care of myself had played a small, indirect part in a man being able to walk outside his house and see more of his yard than he had seen in a week.

life is not about me, and that's why i make sure i'm up for it.



1 comment:

  1. I am so thankful that I found your blog(thanks to Lori!) I can not express enough how reading your posts is giving me hope in the situation that I am in. Though it is not the same , its amazing how you are able to express some of the same feelings I am having. Thank you for blogging. I know I am not the only one you are blessing with your words!