Thursday, March 16, 2006

Extreme Makeover, Amish Home Edition

We had some seriously severe weather here in Missouri last weekend. Thunderstorms, tornadoes, golf-ball-sized hail-- you name it, it came to visit. Luckily for me, there was no damage to my family's home or property (though in a previous storm a couple of weeks ago our car got some pretty serious hail damage). However, lots of unfortunate people in rural areas on the outskirts of town had their homes completely destroyed.

Although (knock on wood) such a terrible disaster has never happened to me, I have witnessed this kind of devastation up close, because my sister lost her home to the weather last year. The roof came off of her rented townhouse during a storm. She and her boyfriend escaped alive with most of their pets, but they lost almost everything they owned. Clothes, appliances, furniture, food, tolietries, school paperwork, important financial and legal records. Paychecks. Souvenirs from trips they had taken outside the country. Artifacts they had collected on archeological digs. Family photos.

It took my sister months and months to get everything sorted out. Fighting with the state housing authority (they did not want to allow her back on the site to salvage her few remaining things), fighting with her landlord (who had neglected the property in a way that might have contributed to the disaster-- she had complained to him repeatedly that her roof had been leaking for months), fighting for her renter's insurance settlement (the policy, of course, was inside her ruined townhouse). She stayed with friends for weeks, then finally moved into an apartment on the same property that was only partially finished.

This month she and her boyfriend were finally able to buy a new home. But it has taken months of struggle and heartache for them to get there.

So, when I saw these poor people on TV (the lucky ones, who could still stand), standing shell-shocked in the ruins of their homes, I really felt for them, I mean physically, viscerally felt pain on their behalf. The hurricanes down south several months ago have taught us all how little our government is willing or able to do for its citizens who have lost everything to a storm, and how quickly charitable organizations that do try to help become overstretched. And my sister's experience has shown me how instantaneously and unexpectedly this sort of disaster can happen to any of us, and how difficult it can be trying to get life back together when it does, even when you have family and friends around who want to help you.

That's why I'm absolutely in love with this story.

After this Amish family's home was destroyed by the recent storms, their tiny community came together and built them a new house in 15 HOURS.

Sure, they're Amish-- they didn't have to put in electical wiring or fancy plumbing. That might have required and extra day or two. But nonetheless. What's important here in my mind is the sense that building a house for a neighbor who'd lost one was an absolute priority for these people. It needed to get done, so they did it. Just like that. Nobody sat around and argued about who should be in charge of designing the rebuilt house, or whether or not the new house should be built in the same place as the old one, or whether this family really deserved a new house, or whether building the family a new house might make them feel somehow entitled to community house-rebuilding in the future, and whether such a sense of entitlement on the part of citizens to receiving public services in exchange for their contribuitions to society is good or bad for the community, etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseam.

Nope. They saw a house needed to be built, and built it.

Our greater society could learn from this example, dontchya think?.


JessiTRON said...

Our "greater" society? Larger, sure, but not greater!

Jaelithe said...

I did in fact mean greater in the sense of larger/surrounding and not better, yes.

Lisa said...

Yes. We could learn a lesson from them. So sorry to hear about what your sister went through. How scarey and heartbreaking for her.