Yesterday, I decided that the kids and I would spend some of our afternoon with the children who’ve been affected by the tornado. I had heard that they were needing normal kid stuff to do, like coloring books, bubbles, card games, ball games, etc.
Since the main thoroughfare has been opened, I thought it would be an okay idea for us to see what we could see of the damage on our way to the main Red Cross shelter. I wanted to make sure my kids understood the gravity of the situation and why it is important to help as much as we can.
My heart pounded harder and harder the closer I drove to the intersection of 15th Street and McFarland. I thought having seen photographs would have prepared me, but no. My heart broke anyway. Everything is gone. Beautiful, full-grown trees, cute homes and neighborhoods, restaurants, memories…
I have a better grasp of the miracle that anyone stepped out of the rubble.
I’ll spare you my rant about volunteering with federal agencies today. Instead, I want you to know about a wonderful little child-focused ministry called C.J.’s Bus. C.J. was only two years old when he died in a tornado. His parents decided to honor him with the creation of C.J.’s Bus, a traveling fun house for helping children and families cope with natural disasters.
It’s easy for overlook the special needs of children in a disaster like the one we’re dealing with in Alabama. After the basic necessities like food and clothing and shelter are met, children need a place to play and work out stress in an appropriate way. C.J.’s Bus provided all kinds of toys, from books to play stations, for children to play with. My kids and I spent the afternoon simply playing ball and having fun with the children affected by the tornado. It made sense to my kids and was a more natural way for them to help. I hope it was a more meaningful (for my kids, I mean) few hours to volunteer than sorting toiletries or clothing.
I witnessed one woman rock a little girl while she cried and cried and cried. Her mom had to leave her at C.J.’s Bus (there was a sign-in & photographing process for safety and ID) so she could take care of some things regarding their situation (or lack thereof). It has been eye-opening to me the things parents will do — are forced to do — with their children during a desperate moment.
God, help us provide safe and secure places for them.
Children in Tuscaloosa are going back to school today or tomorrow, so C.J.’s Bus will be leaving town. But there will be a need for tutors from 4-6 p.m. at the Belk Center as long as school is in session.