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Comforting in the Chaos

Hello blogosphere!  It’s hard to believe that it’s been a month since I last posted.  Time sure flies!  I’ve just come back from a week of vacation with my family on the sunny beaches of Florida, and I must confess that I feel quite refreshed and reinvigorated.  However, I must also confess to you that part of me felt guilty for being on vacation, particularly at a time when so many of my fellow Louisianans were hurting and trying to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives as a result of the catastrophic flooding that hit south Louisiana just a few weeks ago.  As I watched the waves from the Gulf of Mexico slowly roll in, I could not help but think of the thousands of people that helplessly watched the water slowly roll into their homes, forever altering the course of their lives.  I, like you, know many people that have been impacted by this tragedy.  As I thought about this event and all the people affected, I also thought of the opportunities for service and ultimately, for the spread of the gospel, that would come out of this. 

 

But I also wondered what to say to those who were and still hurting.  “I’m sorry” seems to be so insufficient, so miniscule in the grand scheme of what they are facing.  As I began to really ponder on this subject, I was reminded that we sometimes worry so much about trying to say just the right thing to those that are hurting that we end up putting undue pressure on ourselves and ultimately say exactly what we were trying so hard to avoid saying in the first place.  Perhaps you have been in this type of situation.  If so, then maybe these words can be of some help. 

 

This is a list that a friend of mine shared with me.  It is not my list, but was written by Katie in a blog called “Red Stick Moms Blog”, and I found it to be an extremely helpful reminder to speak with sensitivity and compassion, as well as be prepared to back up my speech with a call to action.  Remember that our ultimate goal is to show the love of Jesus Christ, so let’s make sure that both our words and actions draw people closer to Him as opposed to pushing them away.

 

 

Here are 10 common sayings that flood victims don’t want to hear…

 

  • “Just be thankful that you are all safe and alive.”

I’m fairly certain everyone who survived the flooding is thankful they are alive and well; they do not need us reminding them.

  • “It’s just things that can be replaced.”

While “things” can often be replaced, many times they cannot. Pictures and family heirlooms, amongst other things, cannot be replaced. The longing for these lost materials will stay with them long after the flood waters have receded.

  • “At least you only got a few feet of water, my house flooded to the roof.”

Some houses got impacted more so than others, however it is NEVER appropriate to try and one up a fellow victim.

  • “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

Just no. Can we stop with that saying?  (UBC family, remember that I have told you about the flawed logic in this saying on more than one occasion.)

  • “Let me know if you need anything!”

This well-meaning comment has such great intent. Truly it does, but flood victims need lots of things and their minds are already overwhelmed. Can I recommend saying something more productive such as, “Can I come over to help you clean up in the morning?” or “Would it be alright if I buy your family some necessities like clothing, toiletries, and supplies?”

  • “It could always be worse.”

Yep, it sure could, but in this very moment, things are pretty grim for the victims. They need to feel all the emotions they have without judgment.

  • “I’m praying for you.” (and then nothing…)

Obviously you can totally say this comment (and I encourage you to do so), but please don’t stop there if you are in the area of need and can physically help. When one just endured such a tragedy, they often need help now and they need it fast. I’m sure no one gets offended by a prayer offering, but what they would really love in addition to your prayers is your man power in helping them begin to rebuild their life. (Please keep the prayers coming if you are unable to do anything else!)

  • “I sure hope you had flood insurance.”

Well, what if they don’t? Do they need a reminder that this devastation will cost thousands of dollars? Instead, maybe ask if you can help them with making claims or paperwork.

  • “At least you have each other.”

Our families are number one, obviously. It should go without saying that being together is the ultimate blessing, but even having each other doesn’t erase the pain or trauma of enduring a natural disaster.

  • “At least…”

Let’s just say anything that starts with “at least” should ALWAYS be off limits in times of crisis and trauma.  Silver lining, comparing, or judging in your words is never productive and only disconnects you from the victim when we should be connecting. These people are hurting and they have every right to be. Louisiana’s flood victims are vulnerable right now, and their emotions are running high. They need to feel our love and support in their time of need.

 

This is just food for thought, and I hope this list helps you to remember to be sensitive to the feelings as well as the immediate needs of others.  I thank Katie for writing it.  To all those who might be wondering, UBC is currently in the process of adopting a church that has been directly impacted by the flooding, so stay tuned for how we can be the hands and feet of Christ in a very real way.  In the meantime, keep praying, keep donating your time, your money, your items, and keep being sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  I am confident Louisiana’s best days remain in front of her and not behind her. 

 

Louisiana Strong.

 

 

I Love You,

 

J.P.