Tuesday, May 11, 2010

There Is A Reason For Our Name.

Photo from Hands On Nashville

Tennessee is called The Volunteer State, and in the week since the floods, it's becoming apparent why. All over the city groups are springing up, thousands strong, to help their neighbors and city recover. At a gas station yesterday there was a huge bus, waiting to fuel up to drive to some of the hardest hit parts of the city. Exhausted, sweaty, filthy volunteers filled the store to stock up on snacks and water for the long day ahead of them. People driving through neighborhoods asking strangers what they need help with the most.

Having grown up here, I can say that this drive to help those in need is something instilled in Tennesseans from childhood. If someone is in need of help, you help. Period. This week has reminded me of all the reasons why I am so, so proud to call Nashville my home. I cannot help in all of the thousand ways I wish I could: I have my kids all day every day, and taking them into the wrecked neighborhoods is just not an option right now. I hope that with my minimal time I will be donating, I can make at least a small difference. And one of the things I wish most is that my kids could accompany me to see their city coming out to help its own recover from this disaster. I was talking with the husband last night, and we both agreed that it would be wonderful if they were older and able to help and see the helping going on. I wondered to myself if Ella understood that yet, as there have not been many instances in her short life that she has been able to witness true giving, giving without being asked to give. And yet, this morning as I watched the local news, I got my answer. A news crew had gone out to a ruined neighborhood to talk to the residents, and a woman stood with her two kids talking to the reporter, crying. The kids stood in front of what was, just last week, their home, sorting through family photos and water-logged toys. "Mom," she said in a serious tone. "We need to help those kids." As I struggled to keep my heart from bursting through my chest, I said, "I know, Ell. We will! People are already out there helping, and we can think of ways that we can help, too." I was a bit dumbfounded, to tell you the truth, because we do not volunteer at soup kitchens, we do not feed the homeless Christmas dinner. But all of the small things over the years have added up, and I realized that she has seen the tiny acts of service that I didn't think she noticed: dropping off bags of clothes and toys to Goodwill, explaining that some people can't afford brand new things, so when we don't need something any more we give it to them. Picking up trash we come across at the park, explaining that it's nice to keep our town clean, even if it isn't our mess. This small girl, and her concern for her neighbors that she doesn't even know, has completely convinced me that it doesn't take grand gestures of service to instill the need to help in a child. There's a reason for the name The Volunteer State: We help others. We just do it, without being asked. It's in our dna.

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