Adjustments in Joplin…yet the beat goes on

So here I am, finally sitting down to record, to the best of my ability, the events and emotions that have transpired in my little life over these past few weeks.

To start, it is almost two weeks out from the natural disaster that shocked Joplin, Missouri into a land of chaos…and in-turn miracles and beauty.  Before you say “What? Miracles and beauty?” Give me a chance to elaborate…

When returning from Kansas City the night of May 22, 2011, I had no idea the extent of transformation the vicious EF-5 tornado had been able to induce with its mile wide, six mile long scar across the land.  While the transformations I speak of go far beyond the landscape, the physical destruction can hardly be bypassed.  In the worst areas (what some are referring to as ground zero) everything was completely ravished…houses reduced to mere piles of mortar, wood, glass, and siding…trees stripped of their bark…cars crushed together like toys…everything mangled…bent…juxtaposed in unsettling positions…

Still, it is the transformation of the people and attitude of the community I find most interesting and fantastic.  The stories I have heard are amazing…some amazingly terrifying, others amazingly sad, and some amazingly miraculous, but all amazing non the less.  And then, the reaction to the storm has been even more awww-mazing.  It is this resulting love, strength, and hope for the future displayed in the people who call Joplin home, coupled with the selflessness, endless energy, and encouragement of people from, literally, all sections of the country…that begin to form the  silver lining to the giant cloud that had loomed out of the sky not even two weeks back.

For more reading, stories, and thoughts in general on the Joplin tornado I refer you to my friend Alissa’s blog: We Will Rise…

And I know there are probably plenty other Joplin-ites out there who have typed out some prose in response to this tragedy turned opportunity for positive growth.  So if you want to know more, just Google it 🙂

That said, I think it is critical to note this situation is absolutely one of those which author Kahlil Gibran would have been refering to when he said “Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.”  In and of itself…the tornado was not a wonderful thing…but how many of the people I have spoken with choose to view their future from here on IS marvelous.  And yet, I am not trying to ignore the fact there are some families, friends, and individuals out there who continue to struggle with seeing any rainbow after these weeks of rain. Maybe they lost their spouse, their child, their best friend…and while I am not trying to downplay those who lost their homes/cars/every material possession…losing a loved one seems exponentially greater to me, and I send my prayers to all those who might be in such a sad situation, where the dark veil dropped by the tornado blocks any light of positivity trying to shine through.  But there is something more, and I do pray those hurting individuals would turn to God and be provided with numerous sources of  support and comfort in the midst of their pain.

Now, switching over to a more personal note, how has all this affected me?  Considering I actually live a touch north of Joplin and suffered not even a loss of power on the night of the tornado…I feel blessed, and yet confused and a bit guilty.  When such things, like this tornado, happen uncomfortably close to you and yet not immediately-directly to you…you are kind of left out on this strange “ledge”.

Going with this ledge metaphor: You don’t feel completely overwhelmed and falling like the people so impacted they have nothing to stand on at all, and yet you feel much more affected by the event than the people back on the solid ground.  So, there you are tottering between the two, between falling into an abyss and standing on solid ground.

You begin wondering things like: why did I, my apartment, my things get spared?  And you want to help and contribute to the recovery effort, and yet your life, your home, your job really weren’t immediately changed by the event.  And thus this battle begins between usual life, and the desire to assist and be helpful to your neighbors who are newly in need…which leaves you feeling slightly frustrated and confused.  At least this is how it has been for me…

But in the midst of my emotional bout, God has revealed a great deal to me about my character and things I can work on.  As Jon put it so perfectly one day, while we were talking and I had been lamenting about feeling less than helpful, he said “Rachel…you feel like you are only helping people enough if you are actually there pulling them out of the rubble. But what you don’t see or realize is that you are helping people already…just by being here to support me…I am in turn able to go to work and support the people there who are hurting.”  He said he had never given so many hugs and been cried on so much, and he knew he could handle it because he had someone, me, to share his experiences with.  Wow.  And while I hated to admit I actually felt like I needed to be the hand pulling someone out…On some subconscious level I did kind of feel that way.  Actually acknowledging that rather self-promoting and pompous thought was really humbling for me, and encouraged me to take a step back from the situation.  Not that I should not care at all or not try to help in ways I could…it was true Joplin and her people would find their feet again…even if I wasn’t involved!  Crazy 🙂 haha.  And while I usually try to behave and often think more with a self-demoting side (which is not good either)…there is a tendency for me to truly believe I NEED to be doing EVERYTHING.  And we all know deep down…that is just plain silly.

As the days have past, I have gotten better about not letting myself feel horrible I can’t skip work to go rebuild the town.  And as many of my friends and others have stated…the need will continue to be around for a while…so I’m sure their will be plenty of opportunities for me to join in.  and now I just need to find how best to use my skills in the recovery effort.  If at all possible I would love to be able to incorporate my art into something that could give Joplin hope and promise for her future…but I’m still trying to figure out just how/what that would look like.  I’d love to go spray-paint fun pictures in various locations of the devestation and just bring some smiles to peoples faces.  When I was over in Europe I saw some truly beautiful and amazing “wall/building/city art”…but I have never done anything like that…so I don’t know how well it would go over; as in I I’m not sure what I would paint or where I would paint it. Still, I have had a few other ideas too…so we will see what artistic inspiration I can run with.

This might be a marathon post, but lets go ahead and switch topics from tornado to something a little more delightful…and that delightful subject would be my new spicy red Roubaix Specialized road bike.  OH. MY. GOSH. She is beautiful, and after waiting through all the craziness, I finally got to take her out for a spin on Wednesday and again on Thursday of this week.  It is so different from my Trek hybrid/commuter bike.  The shifting is so smooth and I can actually go kind of FAST 🙂  Oh it is thrilling and wonderful.  I am so excited my search for a good road bike is over, and I am even more stoked that I got such an awesome deal on this one.  I’m naming her Ruby and I can’t WAIT to get back out and ride some more.  Jon was nice enough to take me out Wednesday to the MSSU parking lot and instruct me a bit on how to clip in and ride clipped to my bike.   Though I was a bit nervous at first, and I am still getting used to smoothly clipping in and out…I really like it.  I felt like for my first time ever riding clipped in I did pretty well.

On a down-note though, on only my second trip out with Ruby…I busted her back tire.  And when I say busted I mean it full-out blew.  I heard a loud pop,  I screamed, then my bike got a bit more difficult to control, and finally I was able to stop, dismount and inspect my damage.  While I was super bummed the tire blew, I was SO excited I remembered to unclip even though I was in a bit of a frenzy to get off my bike.  The fact I didn’t fall or anything for my first tire blow-out and only my second time riding clips…I felt pretty good.  Still, it was a bit of a sad day because of course I didn’t have my phone with me or anything…so I did the only thing i could think to do.  Picked my bike up, hoisted it on my back and began walking back towards MSSU.  Luckily I was only a mile or so from the school…but I probably made it a mere 3 blocks and I knew I was going to need some help.  To my great relief, some nice guys with big trucks (I think they were electrical or some type of energy repair guys) asked if they could help me, and I took them up on the offer.  As I was riding in the cab back to the University I learned that the guy, Mike, had been in Joplin about seven days working to help get the city running again after the tornado.  He said the advancements that had been made just in the few days  he had been in town were astounding…everyone has been working really hard and getting the job done.  So, though it was not cool to blow my tire, it was neat to meet some of the guys who had come in to help Joplin, and be able to say thank you to them.

Other random updates would include:

  • the family came to visit for Memorial Day weekend and we went to Branson for a bit of shopping and a show;
  • Work has actually been quite busy with recording/editing/designing training tutorials and what-not…which has been nice because it keeps me occupied and creating 🙂
  • The Saturday before the tornado (so two weekends back) I made a new friend…who seems pretty much a God-send because we just clicked so instantly.  In the brief hours we were together we talked about tons of great things and I am sure God has plenty more for us to share with one another, thus I am looking forward to coffee dates with her soon
  • I was asked to sketch up some ideas for a race medal for a set of summer-night races, so that is fun!
  • And while my list of things I wish to get done seems to double daily, God continues to be with me…even when I don’t dedicate as much of my effort to honoring him as I should…and I know he will lead me so long as I listen for his voice.

If you have made it this far in my post I am impressed, and appreciate your interest.  But I think I’ve gone on long enough for one post…however, with any luck I will wrestle up some more time soon to sit down and write more.  Since my mind and thoughts are going, going, going pretty much 24-7…I know I have more things I could jot down 🙂

In closing, I am looking forward to this weekend…and hopefully some relaxation/rest.  I can’t always account for where all my time goes, but it sure does seem to diappear quickly and sleep is something that seems to suffer when schedules get tight.  Therefore, I pray a bit of blissful do-nothing-ness for all you weary souls out there today…and I hope God would nourish us with the energy, strength, and love only he can provide. Hugs 🙂


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