This past week, Mother Nature played a very nasty trick on the Midwest. A “Bomb Cyclone” is what the weather service called it. I can’t tell you scientifically what a “Bomb Cyclone” is, but I can tell you what it did. Heavy rains caused rapid snow melt which sent rivers and waterways to record levels and beyond. Dams and levees broke. Bridges and roads washed away. Complete farms, ranches, homes and livestock washed away, never to be found. Lives lost. Some of the worst devastation is just miles from where we live.
Our little ranch is fine. Are we calving in mud higher than our muck boots? Yes. Do we have water in our basement? Yes. Are we doing okay? Absolutely.
Today, Greg & I drove to Verdigre, NE where they were beginning clean up as the water had receded. We have no real connection to Verdigre, other than a few years ago we rented pasture near there. We would eat at the local cafe and grab a kolache from the bakery. But today, we joined numerous others from all over our area to pitch in and help.
Let me share some observations from my day:
- At the house we were assigned, the fire department pumped water out of the basement. We waited a long time before enough water was pumped so that we could begin taking things out. (note force of water being sent into the street drain. This went on for a long time)One man suggested the idea of making lines to be more efficient. There were no debates on whether that was a good idea or how it should be done. Everyone just joined together and did it because it worked. We were strangers of all walks of life, coming together for a common cause. It was like fine clockwork.
- We made a line from the house to the curb to hand buckets of sludge and mud-soaked possessions from one person to the next until it reached the trailer ready to go to the dumping area when filled. As I handled each item as it passed, I realized I was holding a piece of that family with every hand off. Books, child’s toys, family movies, important papers, furniture and so much more, all water soaked and full of cold, slick, slimy mud. I saw the hurt in the owner’s eyes. More like a look of disbelief, really, but an ache just the same. In that instant, I realized that possessions are just that, possessions…things. We don’t come into this world with them and we don’t leave this world with them.
- At another house, as the owner watched his possessions being thrown into the trailer, he said “I’m most anxious about getting a new water heater, taking a shower and having hot water again someday”. Wow. He didn’t say “I can’t wait until I can replace my computer or television.” He was missing hot water. How many things do I take for granted each day?
- Born in South Dakota and now a Nebraskan, I am so proud to be from the Midwest. It’s what people do here. We help each other in time of need. So many people came out today to work with people they’d never met to help people they’d never meet. This morning in our church, one of our members said he was going to put a can in the back of the church and collect money for water and supplies to take to our flooding neighboring towns. In an hour, there was $2,100.00 in that can.
- Today, we worked beside policemen, firemen, EMTs, medical personnel and others who either voluntarily or professionally give their time to help those in need. They do not get the thanks they deserve. In fact, sometimes it’s the opposite. As Mr. Rogers would say “there are always the helpers”. I said a prayer of thanks for them today. You should too.
- You haven’t heard about any of this on the nightly news. You haven’t heard about our massive floods in Nebraska. You haven’t heard about 500 damaged homes in one Nebraska county alone. You haven’t heard about the farmer who lost his life when his tractor was swept away as he tried to help a stranded motorist. You haven’t heard about the ranchers who had to cut fences before they fled for their lives, only praying that their beloved herds could save themselves and now are overcome with grief as they uncover dead stock. You haven’t heard about the family who’s 5th generation ranch was swept away. You haven’t heard about the miles of water that have overtaken ranches, farms, houses, livestock, pets and fields. You haven’t heard about what life changing events are taking place in Nebraska. You also haven’t heard about the people who are coming together to help each other. Why? Because the news seems to concentrate most on the “important headlines”. You know the ones, right? The Hollywood scandals and never-ending political bashings.
- They call Nebraska the “flyover state”. Let me tell you something else about Nebraska. Nebraskans are tough. Nebraskans are strong. There is an unbelievable amount of work ahead of many people. However, we will pray together, work together and rebuild together even stronger than before.
- Yes, they say Nebraska “isn’t for everyone”. I always knew that was a correct statement. I am proud to call the Midwest my home.