By Mike Pound
JOPLIN, Mo. —
I sort of got a problem.
It’s a nice problem, but a problem nonetheless. The problem is I can’t keep up with all of the nice things folks have been doing for Joplin. I’m not the only one having that problem. It’s something we struggle with every day here at the paper, and it’s a problem that folks from Joplin struggle with every day.
How do you thank the thousands and thousands of folks who — with seemingly little, if any, connection to Joplin — opened up their hearts to the victims of the May 22 tornado? Making the thanking even tougher is that most of the folks who are lending a hand up to Joplin don’t want thanks. What they want to do is help.
On Thursday, I spoke with Peter Birk who lives in Seattle, Wash. Peter grew up in Joplin. He graduated from Memorial High School. I was talking with Peter about a fundraiser for the Joplin tornado victims he helped put together at the restaurant he works at in Seattle. One of the things that amazed Peter, he said, was the support the restaurant received from throughout Seattle. Peter told me that tickets to the event (which will be featured Wednesday in the paper’s On the Table section) quickly sold out.
Peter also told me that everyone involved with hosting the fundraiser donated their time and that all the restaurant’s vendors supplied the food for the event at no charge.
“Everything associated with the event was donated,” Peter said.
I thought that was something.
In that same phone conversation, Peter told me about some neat ladies in the Seattle area who made 100 quilts for Joplin tornado victims.
I thought that was something, too.
Also on Thursday, I spoke with Donald Capps from Joplin. Donald called to tell me that his son who lives in New York, along with his three sons, will be in Joplin in the next few days to help the folks with the Joplin Area Catholic Schools. Donald told me that this will be the second Joplin trip for his son. He also told me that his son has collected a ton of money for the school system.
I thought that was something, too, and I told Donald I would try to speak with his son and with his grandsons.
I hope that I can because the guys need to know how much we appreciate what they are doing.
Look, it’s hard to find any sort of bright spot in the aftermath of the tornado. But the one thing that I think has made things a bit easier for some folks is the outpouring of support, help and concern that has come their way.
The other day, I received an email from a nice lady named Ellisa Story from Jackson, Miss. Ellisa sent me the email to comment on a column I did about Nancy Grace. (Hint: Ellisa is not a Nancy Grace fan.) At the end of her email, Ellisa wrote the following: “My prayers will always be with you and the people of Joplin.”
How neat is that?
If you’ve driven around Joplin lately, I’m sure you’ve probably seen the buses from churches from all over the country who have sent folks to help. Many of the groups come from communities that have also, in recent years, been hit by terrible disasters. But others are here just because they think it’s the right thing to do.
So how do we thank all of these people? I don’t know.
About all we can do is, whenever we run into someone helping out, whenever we speak on the phone with someone who has or is doing something nice for Joplin, we should tell him or her how much we appreciate what he or she is doing. We should also tell those people to pass along our thanks to all of the other people who are with them.
But that’s not all we should do. We should promise ourselves that the next time a natural disaster strikes a community, we’ll do more than give the folks a passing thought of sympathy. We should promise ourselves that we’ll repay the kindness shown to us with some Joplin kindness of our own.
That’s the best way to thank someone.