Lifeline This Week

Fri May 07 @02:30 - 04:30AM
Mobile Clinic
Sat May 08 @09:00 - 11:30AM
Downtown Mobile Medical Clinic
Sun May 09 @05:00 - 08:00AM
Koinos Church
Sat May 15 @09:00 - 11:30AM
Downtown Mobile Medical Clinic

Spectators and Tourists

In the wake of the recent tornado I had the chance to join with a group of others who felt compelled to go to the destruction zone. On short notice we all piled into a bus and headed to Milbury. I don't know much about the intricate details and plans of construction work, but I am physically strong and I knew I could do something.

As we pulled up to the site of one former residence I cannot even begin to explain the atmosphere. How do you stand in your driveway and look at the piles of wood, metal and other debris that once felt so safe and stable? How do you begin to understand that your place of refuge on life's worst days is no longer standing on your worst day yet? What do you stand on when everything solid has been blown out from underneath you?

In those moments all I knew was that I could do something. At least, I could help sort through the rubble for pictures, beloved personal items, and other important papers. I could throw some bricks around and drag branches out of the way. I could gently carry sodden boxes of books to safety where the memories would begin to pour out. And here, where so little was recognizable, I encountered a sliver of beauty amid the ashes as the owners were carried back to days when their children sat for hours to read these very books. The books, that years ago seemed a weighty investment because money was so tight were now priceless treasures evoking joy and stability when everything else had fallen around them.

I did not know these people, but the common bond of our humanity led me there that night. I found loss and grief whirling out of control. The emotions were raw, front and center for all to see. The pairs of shaking hands revealed deep anxiety and trauma even as they brought cigarettes to trembling lips. How does one stand in the midst of this?

Then, I heard shouts and felt a tide of rage rushing through the air as dusk settled around us. I turned to see what was happening and from a distance I could make out a young woman running wildly toward the road, and then down the road. Her speech was erratic as she tried to express the assault that she just endured.

It had never occurred to me that curious spectators would come out to view the destruction. I am not sure why it didn't occur to me, because I see it almost daily on the road when there has been an accident or even a disabled vehicle. People slow down and gawk or "rubber-neck" to catch a glimpse of what's going on. Maybe it didn't occur to me because at least those situations are incidents that one passes on the way to an intended destination. But to intend and plan to go out as tourists of destruction and loss seemed so foreign. Isn't that what the news is for anyway?

Spectators and tourists did come and they clogged the roads as if waiting to enter the stadium of some huge sporting event or famous band performing a concert. Sadly, it became difficult for electrical workers, construction vehicles, and the like to even penetrate to the places of deepest need.

It was here that a young woman could hold back no longer. When a shiny SUV slowly drove up to her former home with windows down and cameras aimed, something snapped in her fragile soul. The tourists were completely unaware of their violence. Yet, the reality remained that they were assaulting and ravaging one freshly shattered life. From vehicles, these numb detached tourists had isolated themselves, and it was as if their cameras were shooting bullets as the drove by. With each click she screamed and raged in pain from the horror of the assault.

Indeed, destruction happens all the time. People endure loss, grief and pain as best they can. Hopefully they are graced with a community who rallies around them to bring support on every level. Unfortunately, what is shocking and horrific is when the victims of destruction, in the midst of their present chaos, have to endure further assaults from tourists and spectators who unknowingly heap greater pain and suffering on already weak shaking bodies.

Unaware. Unknowingly participating. Perpetuators of unintended acts of violence. Yet, violence is violence. Our inability to see is violent. Perhaps we should start with seeing people as people- living breathing humans beings- who share most of your DNA. These are not objects. These are people. See People.

It is not the coming into the destruction zone that is the problem. It is what you do when you get there. Maybe we just don't know what to do. Maybe we aren't sure there is anything we can do. Let me assure you on the most basic human level there is something you can do. It might not seem like much, but as you pause to look and really see the persons in your midst new life can spring up in the midst of destruction.

Unsure of what would unfold; I hopped on a colorful bus with a bunch of people one night. We might even have been mistaken as a tourist group, but we parked and got off the bus. Little did we know what that would mean to our new friends.

No matter what road you are traveling, there is something you can do.