Mar 3, 2012

Disaster Relief Often Requires Only a Listening Ear

When a person loses everything, it is our tendency to come clean up the debris so they can move on.  We think they need a comfortable place to sleep, some food, some shelter.  We take time off work to help and we need to be efficient, so we begin hauling things away with all good intentions.

And they lose everything again.

When providing disaster relief, it is vital to tap into the survivor's mind.  You have to work with and around shock, confusion, humility, pride, ownership, loss.  For some people, you can march in there and remove the debris and that is the best help.  For others, you have to let them sort through the debris and hang onto as much of it as they want.
They'll let it go when they are ready.

Often survivor's have a lot of anger as well.  The family members bear the brunt of this anger.  Pulling the survivor to the side and walking through the emotions with them will give family members some relief and will allow tempers to cool.

I visited a neighbor as he was sifting through the debris that was his home before a tornado tore it apart. He was looking for something.... anything.... that his wife had made.  His wife passed away a few years ago and I believe he misses her as much today as he did back then.

Disaster survivors have a variety of needs.  Disaster survivors often have a surplus of relief help and assistance.
We are a humane people.
We want to help

The abundance of food, firewood and help has impressed this resilient man.
 He asked me to pass on the word that he appreciates all the assistance and the care he has received, he is very much touched by it all.

His needs are met.
He is a simple man,

Seeing his slept-on couch out in the shed, I asked if he'd like a bed.  "No, I don't require much.  I could sleep on the floor.  I like life simple."

My heart broke.
What Mr. Aversa needs may not be found.

Mr. and Mrs. Aversa were creative people.  He walked me around the remnants of his home describing it as a museum.  His home held his memories.  His home held the artwork of his late wife and the furniture he handcrafted through the years.

Like most disaster survivors, this independent man needed to tell his story.  That's all he has.  The proof of his late wife's artwork is no longer visible.  I can't stroll through the house and pay homage.  Mr. Aversa needs to speak the art into existence.  He needs to describe the love his wife put into it.  The way it decorated his home.  The way it kept him close to her.

Sometimes, all they have left is a story.
It has to be told for healing to begin.

Watch the video here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We never know what each day will bring, this was so sad and I didn't even know this sweet man. I cannot possibly begin to understand the hurt he's going through but my heart goes out to him and the many more that lost their homes and family members in the tornadoes that ripped through our country this week.