JOPLIN, Mo. —
When Ann Leach lost most of her possessions in the tornado that struck Joplin on May 22, 2011, she realized that things don’t matter that much.
“I think a big lesson we in Joplin learned is that it’s all just ‘stuff,’” she said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “What we had left that meant more than anything was each other and an even stronger sense of community.”
Coming to terms with that concept, Leach began releasing the “stuff” that can clutter one’s life, and she’s helping others do the same.
She has created a virtual event, “International Letting Go Day.” It is to happen annually on May 22. Leach encourages participants to donate their stuff to local agencies that will use it or to recycle it appropriately.
Leach received a lot of help after the tornado, and it was still coming a year later as the first anniversary memorial service drew near.
“I had Facebook friends around the world commenting that they wished there was something they could do to still help us recover and rebuild,” she said. “So, I encouraged them to release some of their own stuff on our anniversary day and when they did, to just send a good thought or prayer to Joplin.
“I started a Facebook page, and people started posting about how good it felt to let go and know they were connected to Joplin in that way.”
By posting their thoughts, participants share how it feels to take that first step and let go, Leach said.
“It helps the next person to get the courage to do it, too,” she said.
She now encourages participants to include all of the communities around the world that have had natural disasters in the past two years when they send their good thoughts and prayers.
“My vision was a stack of books being donated to the library or old clothes going to people who could use them,” she said. “That’s happened. But people also are talking about emotional releases, changing habits and getting rid of people who drain their energy.”
Leach recalled that after the Joplin tornado, she did not wear makeup for weeks.
“Makeup doesn’t matter,” she said. “What matters is our connection to each other. Everything else is just stuff. So what if we lose everything? We’re here. We’re alive.
“Here’s an idea. Evaluate the items you have and ask yourself: Is there someone who would benefit from this now?”
On the Net
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT the virtual event and how to participate, people may visit www.internationallettinggoday.com or the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/internationallettinggoday.