Tomorrow the students return to Nashville schools after a week of being out due to the incredible flooding. I was able to request the Scholastic Bookfair stay an extra week since not all the students have seen their hard work decorating yet. Tomorrow the teachers will attempt to balance counseling, chatting, teaching, and wrapping up a school year with an unknown group of students. We believe the majority of our students will be returning, but we could easily be adding an unknown group and they are welcome. The next 3 weeks will be filled with unknowns as 137 out of 530 bus routes are deeply impacted with 121 roads impassable.
Many people in Nashville are frustrated with the rest of the world for ignoring us. Yet we are also very proud of the people of Tennessee who have lived up to their name – The Volunteer State. Every person I meet is involved in volunteering and helping someone else. The disaster in Nashville is simply undescribable. As someone stated, it is the worst disaster since the Civil War to hit Nashville. My facebook friends have responded, but I wonder if the message is getting out to you that people need help.
Yesterday one of my projects involved helping at Thomas Edison Elementary School. I appreciate the hard work of all of Edison’s staff, but also a tremendous group of volunteers who worked all week, especially Friday night, and then came out Saturday morning to connect their efforts with the people who needed it. Several areas in Nashville like Pennington Bend Elementary and Ruby Major Elementary did similar efforts.
It was amazing to walk into Edison school and see the tremendous amount of donations still pouring in. Clothes and shoes were at Edison. There were signs all over of food drives. Churches passed out notes offering a wide range of assistance. Volunteers rushed to embrace people in need as they slowly began to arrive. We encouraged them to call others to come over and soon more and more people came.
When I first arrived, the piles of clothing were overwhelming so our directions were to sort them to make them easier for people in need to find. I folded clothes for a couple hours and then a different opportunity arose. A mother walked in with her baby in a carrier and attempted to sit the carrier on the floor and sort through clothes for her entire family; however, every time she tried to take a step, her baby cried. She was frustrated, but didn’t speak enough English to communicate. I stepped over and offered to sit by her baby to help. She smiled and slipped off to stuff her bag with clothing, returning two hours later.
While she was gone, I sat beside this precious baby girl playing, chatting, and feeding her. On the floor in between these tables of clothes, other children found us and we had impromptu storytime. During those two hours I typically had about 15 children come sit down, chat, and sing. We were communicating at my favorite level with fingerplays like The Itsy-Bitsy Spider, songs like Row, Row, Row Your Boat and The Wheels on the Bus. Nearly every child there spoke English as a second or third language, yet we had fun in our own little area. As my friend Dana said, no one has probably had time to just sit with them and sing.
Several of these elementary age children told me that all the books in their house got wet. While I encouraged them to visit the local public libraries, I also am practical. I know that many of these families have lost their means of transportation, homes, belongings, and jobs. Caring for the emotional and recreational needs of these babies will not be a top priority. I wonder what we can do to help families as the end of the school year approaches.
Tomorrow will be my chance to talk with my teens and tweens at their level to see if we can reach them and if we can help. If you have provided the emotional support after a disaster, I’d appreciate any of your ideas. The communities are caring for the housing and food needs. Local public and school libraries are helping families get the forms they need to apply for FEMA aid. How can I help families with their library needs?