Thursday, May 12, 2011

shameless promotion (2.0): May 12, 2011

Editor's note: In the ongoing effort of this blog to fire Will Heathpromote its primary author's failedcareer as a writer, we present this week's column from the St. Clair Times. As always, feel free to leave your thoughts here or by finding us on Twitter. One additional wrinkle: We ask that, if you have not already, you make a donation to the Alabama Red Cross before going any further. Every little bit helps. We thank you in advance for your feigning of interest.
Recovering one bite at a time

Question: How do you eat an elephant?
Answer: One bite at a time.

The thought occurred to me this past week while some church friends and I were dragging tree limbs out of a storm-affected yard to the street. It was and is very easy to despair at the enormity of the project — rebuilding shattered homes and shattered lives from one side of this state to the other in the wake of the worst natural disaster we’ve ever experienced.

How do we do it? How do we go about getting back our neighborhoods, our daily routines or even our sense of humor?

Answer: One house at a time. One neighborhood at a time. One day at a time. One week at a time.

One bite at a time.

It was something Gov. Robert Bentley touched on last week when he toured the storm-ravaged Shoal Creek Valley area. The governor and his entourage visited just about every area that sustained devastation over the course of 10 days, and no one area was any more or less disheartening than any other. You could see the weight of the devastation weighing on the face of a man who took office only a few months ago.

Still, he was doing what he could to help people cope, one house at a time.

“When I’m with them,” he said, “they cry, I cry with them, and then I go to the next one and we do the same thing.”

One bite at a time.

Look, there’s nothing anyone can do to bring back the people we lost, nothing that will ease the healing process for people whose homes blew away, with everything they owned going with it. One area person who’s worked in Shoal Creek every day since the storm told me he’s wept every day. And who could blame him, really?

But that’s the thing. Despite the enormity of the tragedy and the overwhelming sadness, the volunteer groups keep coming back. They keep coming back, and they keep lending their hands, and they keep doing what they can.

Our group last week spent roughly two hours helping an elderly man clear his backyard, where a tree lay across his vegetable garden. A quick glance around the neighborhood told the story: Every house sustained damage; everyone was in need of help. No group of 15 people could possibly save that area with a month to work.

But we could help that resident grow vegetables again. And, for the moment at least, that was enough.

With every bite, that elephant shrinks, if only a little bit.

I asked St. Clair County Commissioner Jeff Brown Thursday about the efforts in Shoal Creek Valley. Is he seeing signs of hope? Does he think the area is going to be OK?

“These people are troopers,” he said. “They’re going to make it.

“I’m not saying they don’t need help, but they’re troopers and they’re going to make it.”

One bite at a time.

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