It is a very good thing that I completed #330daysofbiking when I did … I think I have just had the longest stretch of not being on a bicycle in several years. Twelve days, no cycling; fourteen days of Red Cross Disaster Relief. And not a moment of regret. It has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life.
Are things back to normal? Hardly. A funny thing about natural disasters – from tornados, to hurricanes, earthquakes and floods – when cable news has moved on to the next breaking story, the communities that were effected will spend months, even years, recovering and rebuilding. Healing – on all levels – takes a very, very long time.
I have to believe that almost everyone who lives here has been affected, either directly or indirectly. Colleagues at work who have lost their homes, neighbors who have lost family members, friends at school who were severely injured … everyone is connected to the devastation to some degree. Lives have changed. At present, we are simply out of the immediate “crisis” mode. Now begins the recovery. And it will be a long ride.
My boys have all arrived home from college (for a few weeks, anyway), and on my first day “off” and away from the disaster efforts, I finally had a chance to take long and much-needed ride with my son Mason.
While too many familiar landscapes have been drastically altered and damaged, and it’s still nearly impossible to travel many of our local back roads without encountering various work crews still continuing the endless repairs and clean-up, I realized that I really needed a change of course.
I needed to leave the piles of rubble and the smell of burning pine behind me. I needed some open space, green fields and fresh air. I needed roadside daisies. I needed to find beauty again.
And my heart lifted when I found that it was all still out there.
Getting out on my bicycle again, seeing green fields, being with my son, feeling the rhythm of heartbeat, pedals and breath … it was my own personal disaster “relief”.
What lies ahead? I am not entirely sure. I have signed on with the Red Cross as a regular volunteer and have enrolled in their Disaster Services Human Resource System. I’m continuing to help with follow-up work being coordinated through our local Chapter’s office, and am looking forward to continuing disaster response training and becoming an active responder. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with experienced Red Cross Disaster Relief teams who came in from around the country; I learned so much from them, and made some very close friendships along the way.
I also want to extend an enormous and overdue thank you to all of my friends (both local and cyber) who extended so much help and support – from your personal notes, to finding much-needed material items (including a twin bed), monetary donations, offers of manpower, and even mailing a hand-crafted prayer shawl across the country for a woman in our community. Your generosity and kindness is unparalleled, and has been appreciated more than I can express.
Mostly, I have been forever touched by the individuals and families I have been privileged to serve and have gotten to know over the past few weeks. You are in my heart, and I will never forget you.
(Slideshow: amazing friends from Red Cross Disaster Relief)