First off I ask anyone reading this to keep all the people affected by the tornado's in TN last week in your prayers, and please continue to support the recovery efforts. Secondly I will be speaking plainly when it comes to race so no offense is meant and these are my observations and opinions, not necessarily the facts.
So I am writing this post to share some observations from my time in Nashville last week helping with the recovery efforts. I was in college in 1998 when a tornado came through East Nashville and devastated the area I grew up in. The trees, they used to cover the area, shading it. Suddenly they were gone and it just didn't look the same. The trees were down everywhere covering houses and buildings that I had remembered seeing on a daily basis as a child. Now once again the city is hit with maybe an even worse tornado that cut a path right through the city. Parts of East Nashville that were rebuilt and revitalized was once again devastated. This storm came at night, which made it even worse, and it is amazing that more lives were not lost.
This tornado went right through the northern end of TSU destroying many of the agricultural buildings, scattering debris everywhere before passing onto nearby neighborhoods in Northwest Nashville. For a little background I want to say that much of the city has seen a change in the last decade with areas being revitalized. There has also been an influx of people from other parts of the country. This influx has changed the demographics of some areas. Now this part of Northwest has not yet fully experienced this effect. It still has many residents who are renters and on fixed or low incomes. When I first began to see reports of the tornado in the media there was not a lot of talk of this particular area, and I worried if the people there would get the help they needed.
So Thursday I volunteered with a group from Schrader Lane that was going to this area to give out boxes of supplies and food. This church really stepped up to see to the needs of the community, and is continuing to serve as center for relief, counseling, spiritual and emotional support, and even legal help.
When we got to the area of our focus for the day it brought back memories of the 1998 tornado, trees just down everywhere, some houses barely touched, and others with roofs blown off and walls that had crumbled. There was lots of traffic and activity, and in particular there was one location that just drew you to it. A house on the corner of 23rd and Formosa. It was a newer house in contrast to many of the older duplexes that were commonplace in the area. It was owned by a young Asian man. In the yard were many White people, and as I canvassed the area I saw that most of the other residents in the area were Black. The people who lived at this house only had a little damage to their roof. They could have just stayed in their house used their generator and ignored everything, or just went somewhere else and ignored everything. Instead they got there friends to come over and setup a large grill and proceed to cook all day, while also gathering, sorting, and distributing supplies.
As I said people were drawn to this house and all day individuals, organizations, restaurants, and businesses brought by food and supplies. Someone even brought by reflective vest and people jumped into the street and directed traffic so that firetrucks and dump tracks, red cross, emergency services could get through the narrow and very crowded streets.We were able to setup in this yard and distribute supplies quickly, in fact we had to bring more in to meet the demand. The people at this house were just regular people organizing all this with no help from the government or any organization. These people had no official authority, they simply made the decision to take responsibility for their community and help met needs instead of hiding away and thinking only for themselves.
Online I saw my friends and family take to social media to encourage people to come to this area instead of spending their day posting conspiracy theories, political memes, and selfies. I even saw people I knew drive by dropping off supplies and we encouraged each other and others with our smiles. We smiled because it was a joy to serve.
As I traveled the neighborhood handing out food and supplies I saw groups of White people coming into these mostly Black neighborhoods with chainsaws and tools asking who needs helps. Stepping up and saying "Here am I send me". A truck full of the Nashville Sounds baseball team pulled up ready to work. You have to understand that in past times the understanding was that White people don't come to areas like this one. As I said this area was not particularly advertised in the regular media as needing help, but people on their own stepped up. People overcame prejudice that has divided us for so long and said let me "Love My Neighbor As Myself". People that may not even be religious were out putting into practice lessons that Jesus came to this earth to teach us all.
That day taught me much about what can be when we decide to come together for the common good. I learned lessons about people who I might have felt indifferent about. People that I and others might have said were not like us, and would not care. I saw people who had come from other counties care about a community that they had no link to, people who they didn't even know, people who were different from them. I saw what it looks like when we practice what we preach, when we don't just talk of loving our neighbor, but we do it. We are all neighbors regardless of economics, politics, race, religion, and I hope that one day we can come together like this at all times.