When I was 13 a tornado cut through my hometown of Xenia, Ohio and wreaked havoc. The twister destroyed several homes, stores, and a large portion of my church. It was terrifying. I still remember the aftermath. My sister was at work and her boyfriend ran all the way to our house searching for her because his car had been too badly damaged in the storm to drive. The snapshots in my mind of snapped trees and cars stacked on top of each other are clear in my mind.
The clean up might have been even more memorable. The local high school let us hold our church services in their auditorium while our building was rebuilt. As everyone shared their stories of the storm they hugged each other afterwards; even strangers. It was the standard handshake for us all for a while. The standard greeting was, “Hey, how can I help?” Folks meant it too. Everyone showed up with their gloves, their tools, and got to work. So many things were uprooted or destroyed in that storm, but so many community relationships were restored, and even deeper roots took hold.
I think that during a struggle like that disaster, that’s our natural and God-given reaction. We almost immediately find ourselves saying, “What can we do?” or “How can we help?” We drop everything and get to work shoulder to shoulder serving our neighbors. We tell each other, “I love you and I’m glad you’re ok.” But then we show them as we serve them. That’s at the heart of what it means to be a community. We help shoulder each other’s burdens. God made us that way.
It doesn’t take a tornado that leaves a path of destruction for us to do it though. The same restoration that happened in Xenia back in 2000 and the seeds of hope that were planted in our neighborhoods can take root any and every day. This Sunday, May 5th over a dozen local businesses and churches are teaming up with students from several schools to be good neighbors and serve our community. Volunteers will be framing two houses in Nagel Middle School’s parking lot for Habitat for Humanity. Teams will be taking necessities to people in need all around town, and several groups will be delivering baked goods to our first responders. Others will be serving at the Flying Pig.
Community members of all ages can sign up HERE to volunteer or if you know of a great opportunity to serve in our area you can nominate it for SERVEday HERE. This is the 3rd year that people have come together to help frame houses for deserving families, but the leadership team this year is hoping that it spreads far beyond just hammering some nails. They want it to be a way of life for the Greater Anderson area. That all of us look to the needs of our neighbors and rush in to help them.
There’s a story Jesus tells in Matthew 25 of a King rewarding his people for serving him. None of his citizens remember doing any of the things he is giving them credit for, so they ask him, “When did we do any of those things?” The king’s answer is powerful, “Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me.” Serving our neighbors is an even bigger privilege than we all recognize.
From Matt Robinson, Parkside Christian Church