This morning I took a very short drive of about two miles north of where we live. The recent tornado which passed through a few days ago prompted me to head over and offer some help along with hundreds of other volunteers. Of course, at a time like this there are many sights you would prefer never to see anywhere, but there were two scenes in particular which most effectively brought reality rushing into my mind. First, there was the moment I saw two eighteen wheeler rigs parked in a local church parking lot bearing lettering along the sides which read, “Samaritan’s Purse.” These trucks were not just passing through on their way to some far away destination. No, they had become a stationary post for disaster relief…two miles from my home.
(I intentionally did not take pictures out of respect for those who were suffering through great personal loss, stress, and grief. I did not see any volunteers taking pictures. Though no one said it, we knew we had all come there to work. Not to take pictures.)
After reading and signing a couple of forms, I received a bright orange t-shirt and instructions to follow a caravan of volunteers to our site for the morning. Our vehicles moved along slowly. At one point we stopped for 20 minutes while a large wooden power pole was lowered into the ground replacing the smaller twisted and splintered original pole.
The size of a tree can be very deceptive while standing for generations in a person’s yard. Our task was to cut and stack two massive trees now lying near a modest home. There was a pine tree and an oak tree, and they were both gigantic. But with a couple of men who were talented and experienced with chain saws and a bee hive of volunteers, those trees morphed into a few piles of logs and rubbish along the roadside within about two hours.
One young lady who appeared to be 18 to 20 years old quietly watched as we all focused on the task at hand. She would slowly move around the work. Sometimes standing and sometimes finding a place to sit. It was painfully obvious that the oak tree held a great deal of significance in her mind. I never saw her cry, and I never saw her smile. Her face was still and somber. Her eyes looked deeply into the scene as though she was determined to etch in her memory all she possibly could as that tree quickly became disassembled. Near the end of the work, she walked over and counted the growth rings in the now exposed trunk. From there she walked deliberately over to the pile of limbs and leaves for another longing stare. That’s when I stepped beside her and asked, “Was this your favorite tree?” She simply answered, “Yes, it was.”
One of the men on the crew talked with her mother who confirmed that at least three generations of children had enjoyed a swing which had hung from one of the strong limbs. I can only imagine the volume of stories that old oak could have told if oak trees were able to talk.