There was one time I thought there was a good chance the weather was going to kill me. I was stuck in a line of cars on Highway 35W in Iowa during a blizzard with white-out conditions, waiting while a Highway Department snow plow cleared a path for us to turn around so we could try and make it back to Clear Lake. When I heard a distinctive crashing sound behind me I didn’t even check my rearview mirror, but pulled forward and to the left as far as I could. When I did look back it was just in time to see a semi pushing two cars through the space where I had been and into the ditch.
After I got out and checked to see if there was anything that could be done for the people in the ditch (there wasn’t) and then ran to the Highway Patrol car 50 feet away where the trooper was still oblivious to what had happened, I tried to make it back to my own car. Ten feet away from it I suddenly couldn’t breathe and almost passed out. I thought if I tipped over there – on the far side of my car from where everything was now going on – I might be frozen before anyone noticed my lump in the snow. Somehow I made it into my car, and that night — Christmas Eve, 1984 — I slept on the floor of the Zion Lutheran Church in Clear Lake with a hundred or so other stranded travelers, most of whom snored. I was tired, shaken and uncomfortable, but I knew that at some point I was going to get home.
I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be lying there and not have a home to go to.
I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be lying there and not even have a home town to go to.
At least I wasn’t hungry. Shortly after our group of wayfaring strangers arrived in the church its members started showing up with hams, turkeys, pies, cakes, mashed potatoes, bread — everything brought warm from their own holiday tables, perhaps even snatched from under the noses of their own families, and carried to us who were hungry, and we were fed. I think I started to think better of the world then, and I know that my own steps along a certain spiritual path — tentative until then — started to quicken.
I don’t have to tell you what has happened in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. I don’t have to tell you to give. I’m confident you’ll understand and empathize with the fear, the uncertainty and the desperation of those who have found a place to lie down (not necessarily to sleep) and are asking, “What do I do now?” I can tell you there are three organizations that I have some experience with and can recommend to you if you know you want to help but aren’t sure where to give.
The Salvation Army – I know the work they did in helping Grand Forks recover from its flood a few years ago, and I know of no group more dedicated and efficient in meeting desperate needs regardless of the creed, color or condition of the people who need help.
Samaritan’s Purse – our family packs several boxes every Christmas for their Operation Christmas Child program and I know the SP organization is masterful at the complex logistics involved in gathering, shipping and delivering materials to where they are needed. Their experience, and the experience of the Salvation Army, will be invaluable in this present situation.
Soldier’s Angels – this group is new to me, but we have adopted a soldier and I’ve been impressed with how this organization has grown up around a simple, heart-felt idea. I have heard that their latest idea is to reach out to the families of National Guard troops from the effected states who thought they were on the front lines, only to have to worry now about the homefront.
Whatever you do, I know it will make a difference and probably in ways you may never ever realize.