Today was perfect. I was right where I needed to be, alongside colleagues giving back. Taking time away from the everyday rat race of life to help those in need. On May 22nd an EF5 Tornado ripped through the heart of Joplin, Missouri destroying over 7,000 homes and taking 162 lives. This day was intended to be a day of celebration as local high school students walked across the stage to accept their diplomas and to toss their caps in the air. These students got their moment. They got their diploma and they got to throw their hats in the air as a sign of triumph, of accomplishment. But shortly after the celebration started their lives were instantly turned upside down along with thousands of other lives. It took a matter of 18 minutes for this tornado to rip a town in two, literally. And when it was over those who could, emerged through the rubble and saw what was left which wasn't much. I couldn't even begin to imagine the emotions that flooded through their minds. How they were able to find the courage to start the rebuilding process, to try and look forward and to try to find the silver lining out of this will always amaze me. The stories we hear-each and everyone of them-different but not one less important than the other. 5 months later and the stories are still pouring in but now they are of the Hope, Love, Dreams, Restoring Joplin-it's community, it's people, it's future. Homes are being rebuilt. Businesses are open. People are flooding back and making new starts. Fresh starts with pieces of their past but more importantly hope for their future.
So today we helped. We planted trees. We put together goodie bags. We sifted through books. We did whatever we could to help whoever we could for as along as we could. This day certainly makes it into the top 10 days of my life. It was humbling to walk the streets of Joplin and to hear the stories of those families we worked beside today. To see all of their lives turned upside down in a matter of minutes and for them to come out on top with such a positive and upbeat outlook. To be reminded of what is truly important in life and how one has no control over what is going to happen next. It is about having faith and believing in something so much bigger than ourselves. My heart goes out to all those who lost loved ones, to anyone who was affected by this devastation but know, you are all heroes and inspirations to the rest of us. God Bless You All and thank you for sharing your homes and stories with us today.
"We make a living by what we do. We make a life but what we give."
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