It’s been three years since that fateful day in October when Hurricane Michael visited our home in the Florida Panhandle. Three years of progress and setbacks, hope and healing, restoring and rebuilding. Still, the things I remember most from those first few weeks are the simple ones, the ones that made me stop and appreciate the blessed resilience of life and the healing power of love.
It was a week after Hurricane Michael on a Sunday. Our church had been destroyed in the storm, so we gathered in the parking lot with folding chairs, a makeshift stage, and a beaten, but still standing oak tree in the background. Amidst all the wreckage and downed tree limbs we sang and worshipped and praised God for seeing us through the storm.
Our daughters and sons-in-love and our little granddaughter-in-love, Piper, then three, joined us for worship. For most of the hour, Piper sat on my lap, entranced with the music, the blue sky overhead, and the birdsongs that seemed to be accompanying our voices.
Our church had collected donations of clothing, essentials, cleaning supplies, toiletries, diapers, anything offered really, for distribution in the surrounding area after service. We grilled hamburgers and hotdogs, and invited people in the neighborhood to join us and to take what they needed.
I set Piper up in the bed of her dad’s truck with food and drink and for a while she was content to eat and watch all the activity going on around her. I knew that would be short lived. There was just too much going on for a three-year-old to resist!
Sure enough, once her food was gone, she wanted Nona Jen to join her in exploring! We walked around hand-in-hand for a while, Piper pointing out in her childlike wisdom, “The hurricane made that tree fall, Nona Jen.” I told her it had made a lot of trees fall.
She seemed to ponder that for a minute and then she got distracted by a group of kids throwing a ball and wanted to join them.
As I watched them play, I was reminded how resilient kids are. They find joy no matter what the situation. Here they were, in the middle of what amounted to chaos, playing, laughing, being exactly what they were, kids. We could all take a page from their book, I thought.
A few minutes later I noticed Piper break from the group, turning her attention to gathering up the pine cones, leaves, twigs, and moss that littered the parking lot. I followed her, quietly watching as she gathered and then placed little piles of her findings in various locations around the lot. Curious, I asked her what she was doing.
“I’m making new houses for the birds,” she said in her sweet little voice, “Because all their other ones got blowed away.”
I swear my heart melted a little more in that moment. Here was this precious child, having just come through one of the scariest moments of her young life, worried about all the birds and where they were going to live now.
But rather than fretting about it, she simply set about trying to help them, placing her little piles of nests all over that parking lot. It didn’t matter that the birds would likely never use her offerings…or perhaps they would eventually gather those twigs and moss and use them as she’d intended, to make a new home. Who knew? And really, that wasn’t the point.
The thing that mattered was that she had tried. And to me, in the middle of so much uncertainty and heartbreak, that was beautiful, and a simple reminder, that with enough childlike faith and joy, we could all be resilient too.