Love your neighborI spent three days in the past week mucking out basements in Carlton County because I felt the need to step out and help my community.
By: Jolynne Denman, Pine Journal
I spent three days in the past week mucking out basements in Carlton County because I felt the need to step out and help my community.
The flood waters left tremendous destruction in their wake, affecting thousands of homes in the region. Some homes have been in the same family for generations, others only for a couple of years, but all had histories damaged or wiped out by the flood. Homes give a sense of safety and belonging. The attack of the flood on the foundation of the house is also an attack on the family as well.
Homeowners and others, like me, who were unaffected by the flood can and should help when disaster strikes. There are many volunteer organizations that need help, or people can call the Cloquet Armory’s Flood Relief Center at 218-384-1112 or volunteer through a church, which is how I became involved.
Seeing the loss in the faces of the homeowners was heartbreaking. It can’t be easy having strangers coming onto their property, loading up their possessions and pieces of their moldy walls into trailers to bring to the dump.
When the job of removing belongings from the basement becomes overwhelming, disaster relief teams are called in to aid the homeowner. Speed is imperative. Homes that were flooded can start developing mold in 24 to 48 hours on damp surfaces, so removal of moldy walls and objects must happen quickly.
“Greater love has no man than he who lays down his life for his brother – John 15:13.”
This verse is often misinterpreted as stating someone needs to die to show greatest love for someone. It means that it is the truest form of love is expressed when you sacrifice the desires and priorities of your everyday life to aid your neighbor.
You don’t have to be a religious person to appreciate the spirit of the verse. Going through my church was the best thing for me, being with people I knew and who understood the importance of supporting our community.
Last June, I and other members from my church, Good Hope Church, helped with disaster clean up in Joplin, Mo. We were led by our pastor, Mike Stevens. Mike – who coached us through the often difficult tasks of disaster clean up in Joplin – now led us in the clean-up effort in Carlton County. He directed us to homes that called in for help.
Joplin taught me how to work with a team that I barely knew and prepared me for other difficult disaster clean-up situations. I learned to have sensitivity for the homeowner in Joplin, a lesson I also applied in Carlton County. Their possessions may be damaged, but we had to treat them with respect – not as trash. The work was not supposed to be a demolition project. We were trying to salvage what we could from the wreckage. Some homeowners wanted their things to be carried out of their basements and dried in the sun, others just wanted it to be taken to the dump. Many basements had to be gutted before mold began to grow, which could later cause health problems for the homeowner. Though it was rough, grungy work, our main focus was on the homeowners: they had gone through a traumatic experience, and now they needed support and care.
Our church was not the only group willing to help out, there were other people from distant communities who came to help in the wake of our disaster.
My family hosted two seasoned disaster-relief volunteers from Springfield, Mo. Merle Calkins, 72, and Brent Hurt, 36, made the 13-hour trek from Missouri to Cloquet. Both men serve under a Christian disaster response organization called Convoy of Hope, which provides the tools and supplies that disaster relief teams need. They brought their Ford F-350 truck and a supply trailer full of masks, gloves, shovels, bleach, crowbars, wheelbarrows, sledgehammers and saws. Merle and Brent were sent by their Disaster Relief Committee, whose members spend their hours searching for any news about disasters in the United States. Merle and Brent brought the muscle, but also the laughs we needed to do the job of helping the homeowners.
While cleaning basements in Carlton I came to realize something: I am receiving as much – if not more – than I am giving to this homeowner. Though many things were lost in the flood, some were salvaged. A postcard from Stockholm. A photo album of baby pictures of a homeowner’s twin daughters. Little miracles out of terrible wreckage.
After three days in service of love, we had to say goodbye to our new Missouri friends.
Our family will always hold onto memories of them, and the lesson of being ready to put aside your life for someone else. We hope to be able to help when disasters strikes again.
Thanks to all the disaster relief volunteers and service people who stepped up to love your neighbors in their time of need and also to organizations like Convoy of Hope for providing the equipment needed to continue our work.
Courage does not mean having the strength of Hercules, or being a brave soldier. The courage that I saw was people who stepped out of their daily lives to help someone they barely knew, lending a hand in their time of need.
It is up to you if you want to put your life aside, and be the hero for someone else. I believe it is the right thing to do. Loving your neighbor takes the greatest amount of courage.
Jolynne Denman is a 2012 graduate of Cloquet High School and is headed to Bemidji State University to major in journalism. She will be writing for the Pine Journal this summer.