The Importance of Community
My post this week was ready to be typed and sent out. I will send it out next week. It focuses on Restorative Practices. I was all set to do that on Tuesday morning. When I awakened to alerts and buzzers from my Tennessee numbers, I assumed it was a “snow day” alert and sent happy thoughts to my colleagues back up north. Then in my sleepy state, I saw a text message from a friend in northern Ohio that said “Are you ok?” Confused, I opened my Newschannel5.com page to learn of the tornado that struck Nashville in the wee hours of the night.
My first thoughts were of my mom and my daughter. I knew that if my Mom was ok, then she could look outside to make sure my daughter’s car was in the drive (they live in the same building). My mother had been sleeping and my daughter had actually checked in with her Grandmother during the night. Daughter had come home after work instead of venturing out with friends.
First sigh of relief. I then turned on the live coverage. The devastation as the sun came up was heartbreaking. The buildings that were destroyed and the stunned looks of citizens standing outside of piles of rubble are scenes that will stick with me for a long time.
I regularly watch the news and see when natural disasters strike other communities and make comments like, “That’s horrible” or “How sad!” Or even “Those poor people!” I might even make a donation or send items to a friend that lives in the area, like with the floods in Houston. This was different though. This was home.
These are the streets I traveled. The homes where my students live. The businesses I watched grow and change. The people I worked with, grew up with, and stayed in touch with. This time it was my community.
Tennesseans are a unique group. While there are “Three Grand Divisions” that separate us, and the culture of each division differs a bit, the nickname “Volunteer” runs deeply through all of us and we take it seriously. As the sun rose, my Facebook feed immediately began to fill with “organizers.” The people who are angels in our midst who can mobilize and immediately get responses. They know how to get people organized and get help to those who need it immediately. Many homes of students in North Nashville were hit or without power. Those were the homes of “our” students. The ones who travel across town and most of their families are struggling with poverty. Our Community Achieves liaison (and resident Angel) Maggie Dicks had a post up organizing food and supplies to our families. There were teachers calling families and assessing needs, and ways for people to begin donating and dropping supplies at the school’s door. By late morning, they knew our students who were affected, what their immediate needs were, and planned to serve a hot lunch and deliver supplies. They gave hugs and reassurances to a neighborhood that often gets forgotten about and is the last served by the city. Another of our Angels, Jennifer Ruben, also had an immediate post for donations. She was already recognizing that the organization she has helped for years, Unicycle, would be called upon for clothing, shoes, and jackets. She was not only posting immediate needs by 8am, but the other needs of the community. She offered to pick them up, deliver them, sort them, and gave direction to other community members as well.
My social media feed was full of this. Friends and strangers with trucks, winches, and chainsaws. Citizens with bottles of water and blankets. Donations for food and toiletries rolling in. Maggie said she had received $2500 in donations in just that morning. Two days later, it’s still full of places people can volunteer items, time, food, and money. This community of people is like no other. There are four schools having to move classrooms to other buildings and be ready to receive children who return to classes on Monday. That’s happening now as I write this. While this is daunting and scary, I know that there are people who turned out today, and will continue to turn out all weekend. They will be prepared for Monday. There will be glitches in transportation, but it won’t be because there weren’t enough volunteers. You can’t outsource logistics! What I do know is that people will be understanding and patient..and KIND! It’s amazing at a time when we see so much anger and hatred, that KINDNESS is still what we value most!
It’s hard for me to write all of this from my home in Florida. I’ve sent money. I’ve shared post after post. I’ve contacted people and made calls. It’s difficult to watch as your friends and community suffers.
Whenever disaster strikes, people of Nashville step up. Nashville flooded in 2010. It came back stronger than ever. I’ve seen numerous posts of how strangers turned out to help someone then, and they feel the need to make sure to “pass it on.” It’s the culture of this city. No matter how many “tall skinnies” are built or how many condos and cranes dot our skyline. This city bounced back from the floods of 2010, from the tornado of 1998, and from the ice storm of 1994.
Nashville 2020 will do the same.
To offer help or support schools and teachers, contact MNEA @615-726-1499 or go to MNEA.com To offer support locally, contact Gideon’s Army, Samaritan’s Purse, Lee Chapel Church, or The Nashville Food Project. All of these organizations are helping families locally from ALL neighborhoods.