An incredible thing happened last weekend. Nashville and most of Middle Tennessee experienced a two day flood and storm that rocked our area. It shut down major tourism areas, large and small businesses, roads and freeways, evacuated people from their homes, destroyed possessions and took lives. it was the greatest natural disaster this area has ever seen and some are saying quite possibly the greatest non-hurricane disaster in the Country. It is hard for me to even comprehend that. I spent a week in shock, not really understanding what was happening around me, just knowing I had to act, had to move, had to do something.
One of the strangest things has been the lack of national attention our story received. while most people seem to know what has happened now, it wasn't until we had already begun the recovery process that people began to look in our direction. I got phone calls from people who saw headlines, asking me if we were okay and what was going on. It was hard to find the words to explain what was happening in our city. It was hard to explain to people how big this was when they were only just then getting wind of it. If it had really been a major disaster then they would have known about it, right? And they hadn't, so maybe it wasn't. But it was and no matter how quickly the word got out about our disaster it doesn't change or lessen any of it.
This is my second major disaster in my lifetime. originally from Southern California, I lived there during the Northridge earthquake of '94. This was a huge event and even though I was only 9 years old I remember every moment of it. I remember driving around trying to find food and water, looking for a grocery store that hadn't been destroyed. Wadding through crowds of people. Just as I remember every moment of the earthquake and its aftermath, my brain is scarred with the Nashville Flood of 2010. Although I am not originally from this city, I spent half of my life here. I have lived my life on a tight-rope between Middle Tennessee and Southern California. I call both home and love them both for what they are and what they are not. When I was younger I couldn't wait to move back to California, and once I did I never imagined I would ever live in Tennessee again. I was thankful for my time spent there, but imagined I had got all I could get from it and I couldn't move on fast enough. Little did I know then that Nashville still had a few things to teach me.
When the day came that I was called back to Tennessee I took the steps slowly and reluctantly. But upon my return I remembered something I had forgotten, the sense of community. The greater Nashville area is incredibly unique. Although most would consider it a small town and I have been guilty of the accusations myself, it is so much more. Nashville over the past several years has become a place people move to. No longer a city where you have to search for a good meal and somewhere to shop, Nashville has become metropolitan in its own right. Trader Joe's, Nordstroms on the way, countless designer boutiques and local restaurants that don't just serve meat and 3(not that there' anything wrong with that). Nashville has grown, not just a city of country music and cowboys(even though we have those too), but a city that hosts musicians of every genre every night of the week. A place Hollywood celebrities want to buy their second or third home in, where rock & pop singers come to plant their roots. I'd like to think it is that sense of community that draws people here. This community is ever present is the bustling local music scene. A place where it seems like everyone plays in everyone's band, where people aren't stepping over each other to get there big break but holding each other up and celebrating together. It is something I have always admired about this city and Nashville has truly shined in the wake of the devastating floods.
Our community was ever present as volunteer groups large and small joined together, organized, collected, helped, and rescued. Some organizations like the Red Cross, Hands on Nashville, The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and the Second Harvest Food Bank, and others were already in place. But across the city and state groups started up in an instant. Churches, neighborhood organizations, small businesses, all these people joining together and organizing food and clothing drives, hundreds of locations across town set up to collect donations, to distribute food, toiletries, and water. No, we didn't wait for the national news to get hold of our story or the federal government to step in and save us, we joined together and got to work re-building our city.
At church on Sunday I heard stories of heroism and love. Men and women giving of themselves to help others. tearing out drywall and flooring, removing insulation and air ducts, cleaning up debris, and freely giving hugs and saying prayers to those in need. We didn't do this for money, in fact many spent money, spent it even though they would have to repair their own homes, bought and donated supplies to those with greater needs than their own. We gave of ourselves. And God has never been more present than the sight of him working thru these people here. It is easy to point fingers and complain and criticize people for what they aren't doing, it's easy to forget our purpose and our responsibility. As I have lived my life I have come to find God. I have seen many people come to God and many people leave. But now more than ever I believe that the fire that God sets inside of you, it is always there. No matter what happens, whether you decide you no longer need God, that you can do it alone, or if you are stagnant in your walk with God, too busy to do anything, that fire is always present. It lies beneath the surface waiting to be rekindled. And when you see your city falling apart before your eyes, when you see homes under water, when you see people joining together hand in hand to help each other, then that fire ignites within you.
I spend last week in a dizzy state. In shock with what was happening before my eyes, and moved by the instantaneous outreach of the people. The sense of community that I always loved about my city, more alive than ever. As I rushed to help my parents who lost more than us, as we dealt with our home and the needed repairs, in my heart I was in awe of my city, of our city. when I couldn't physically volunteer because of needs at both my and my parents homes, I rushed to the store to buy things, I raided my kitchen and closets for things I didn't need. I don't say this to pat myself on the back for doing good, but to explain that this desire, this need we have to help those in need, it is not our own. It is God living and breathing in us. Whether all those helping with the volunteer efforts would boast of a relationship with God or not, in this town which is religiously, politically, and culturally diverse, still God is ever present. And what I have seen over the course of the week are living breathing examples of God's word. It's almost like pages were torn from the bible and reenacted right before my eyes. And when I thought this place had nothing left to teach me, I have realized in a few days it has taught me everything.
Today and always no matter where my path takes me and where I will call home, I am and always be a Nashvillian. To me, Nashville is a living breathing representation of all that is still good on this Earth.