In the poem “Ulysses” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the main character discovers many different types of people and ways of living throughout his travels. Reflecting back, Ulysses said, “I am a part of all that I have met.”
In my own “travels” during the recent ice storm, I had the opportunity to see and meet people who were staying at the emergency shelter at the Maryville Community Center.
I was reminded of this line from Tennyson as I met them. They each had their own stories of adversity, all coming together because of the same situation.
I, too, am a part of all that I met there.
A smiley-faced girl named Krista, staying with her family, really caught my attention. She celebrated her 10th birthday there and really seemed to enjoy every minute of it. She was also willing to help out any way she could. What a trooper and what a true hero.
There was an elderly man whose power was restored late in the evening but couldn’t get a ride back to his home in Parnell. He was promised he would have the first ride out in the morning. He promptly went to bed and was up by 4 am asking when he could go home. While his hands trembled and he appeared to be feeble and weak, I could tell his spirit was strong and lively.
I met several members of the Air National Guard from St. Joseph. They were the ones giving rides to and from the shelter. Two in particular caught my attention. One was a quiet, caring young man who showed genuine concern for those he was helping. Another’s sense of humor helped lighten the tense air. Also, two medics were up at all hours of the night to help those in need. They showed patience and love to people they had never seen before and probably never would again.
A young mother with her two children struggled with being at the shelter. While she cried, she also continued to care for and play with her little ones. She had such perseverance.
There was a woman named Grace, who probably had the biggest impact on me. She helped care for an elderly woman from her community, something I learned she does on a daily basis, and being at the shelter was no different. In the quiet moments, when no one was aware, I saw her for who she really is. She truly amazed me. A strong-willed woman, she had a coarse voice, and yet she was so full of patience and love for her friend. I will forever be changed because of Grace.
A mother and her teenage son, traveling through town, were forced to spend the night at the shelter because there were no motel rooms in town. The fact that they had to sleep on uncomfortable cots, in a big gym, with complete strangers, didn’t seem to faze them one bit. They were both so positive and happy and warm.
There was the woman who woke up at 3 am and said “Good Morning!” with a great big smile across her face. I thought she was kidding, that she was just up to go to the bathroom. But, no, she was up for the day and excited to be alive and well.
There was another woman there whose husband refused to leave their cold home, and so she left him there and sought the warmth of the shelter. I admired her independence, but also her great love for her husband…for as soon as it was light that next morning, she went home to check on him.
I also met a woman who came to the shelter to drop off her mother and ended up staying to volunteer. Her spontaneous willingness to help will also be remembered. Serving others doesn’t always come at convenient times. She reminded me of that.
There was the elderly man, Roy, who got up about every hour during the night, and each time, he was grinning from ear to ear. He wore these blue coveralls and that great, big, wide grin. And he was always caring for his wife.
I also met many volunteers and was re-acquainted with others I already knew. Their spirit of service and compassion for so many people was simply astonishing.
There were others, many others, who are now a part of me. I was only with them for a short time, but the impact they made on me was great.
The English poet William Davenant said, “Calamity is the perfect glass wherein we truly see and know ourselves.” The calamity of the great ice storm of ‘07 reaffirmed to me what great people we have here in Nodaway County. I saw through the perfect glass people showing the strength to endure, true compassion for their neighbors and the great faith and unity that I’ve known my whole life here in our community.
We are a compilation of all of our experiences, including the people we’ve interacted with, things we have learned and even our challenges. These things (and people) that help create who we are also show us how to deal with what lies ahead.
And when the next calamity hits us, I’ll remember these people and how they have shaped my life and the lives of others. I truly am a part of all that I have met.