A news article just can’t tell it all.
Like any print or digital media, newspapers have space limitations and time restraints. So they have to make generalized statements that don’t adequately catch the finer details of the story. Newspaper articles are often like snapshots of the Grand Canyon; they are merely a peephole into a larger story that reverberates with life, motion and beauty.
Those who witnessed the Elkhart explosion know the story behind the words.
As I read the newspaper accounts of the Elkhart explosion where a pick-up truck and small propane tank caught on fire and threatened to explode two large propane tanks beside it, I feel the frustration of any resident who knows the in-depth story. Because I’m related to people directly involved in the explosion and ensuing evacuation, I had the privilege of hearing who “hundreds of volunteers” as mentioned in the newspaper and tv stories represented. I know the execution of the evacuation order was accomplished by far more than a disaster team. For me, that becomes the story.
The husband of my aunt and uncle’s next door neighbor is a resident in the Morton County Care Center. When Helen, who lives on the opposite side of Elkhart from the explosion, heard about the fire, she went to the Care Center to check on her husband. Instead of chaos, Helen found a large team of people efficiently handling the evacuation, including her upper-elementary age grandson and a number of other young people
Whoa, hold on a minute! What’s a kid doing in the middle of an evacuation zone? Wouldn’t you think that? Get those kids out of there. Kids would be in the way. Kids need to be protected. What could a child do to help a disaster evacuation anyway?
Well, a lot, actually. This young man, along with his dad, was helping to carry medical files out of the building. Some were attaching name tags to elderly patients from the nursing home. Other young people were holding doors open for adults pushing wheelchairs. Well, who else is going to hold the doors open? Just think of the adults who were freed to do the bigger jobs because a child could do something simple like hold a door open.
Why involve children in disaster operations like an evacuation?
Children do have something to offer. It may be small. But it is significant.
Children broadcast hope. The presence of children remind those of us growing older with each passing day that this world will go on and we are passing its future into capable hands. Several comments on Facebook reiterated the same sentiment: it was so good to see the young people helping the elderly.
Children learn they are not helpless or useless. It stretches them and helps them grow, giving them confidence to take risks and accomplish more than they think they can do.
bWhen complemented for the way she calmly and efficiently did her job that night, eighteen-year-old Taysa said she was glad people saw her that way because, inside, she was scared to death and was praying the whole time that the residents would be ok. Did you catch that? She was praying not that she would be ok, but that the residents would be ok.
It reminds children – and us – that they are part of the community. We’re a team, all working together. Just like the Bible says, we work together like a body – each having our own unique contribution but unable to do our job without the involvement of everyone else.
It allows them to have a front row seat in watching God work among his people. The situation could have been so much worse, yet all those young people experienced that because of their God-empowered actions, a large section of their town was kept safe. That is a lesson they will carry into the rest of their lives.
I never heard whose idea it was to involve the kids of Elkhart. Maybe it was one of those things that just happened. Maybe it’s an attitude that is so entwined into the warp and weft of community life, that it was a natural thing to do. Regardless, involving children takes a little more work and forethought. Kids aren’t always going to be as efficient as an adult. Yet the long term good is worth any momentary inconvenience. It’s good for the community. It’s good for the kids. And our Heavenly Father loves to work in and through the little things in life.