Derecho 2020: Stop Looking For the Helpers and BE One!

“Look for the helpers” has been a sentiment that I have always loved. It stemmed from no other than the cardigan-wearing, shoe-changing Mr. Rogers. The king of virtual learning. His kindness knew no boundaries and his peaceful demeanor and soft-spoken manner epitomized the fact that actions will always speak louder than words. 

But this week, I found myself throwing out his sage advice. 

This week, amidst the pandemic, derecho, and back-to-school chaos, I told my children to stop looking for the helpers. It was time to BE the helpers. 

Our city has been ravaged. Like every other Cedar Rapidian, I am too exhausted to worry, too hot to stop moving, and too heart-broken to give up. We have worked day after day to clear debris, repair housing, and check on our friends and neighbors; only to return home at night to an 80-degree house, offering peanut butter sandwiches for dinner by candlelight. And I am so thankful for this, as many can’t even do that. It is humbling, back-breaking work, but I have never been more proud to be a part of such an amazing community.

Derecho 2020: Stop Looking For the Helpers and BE One!

Kindness does not have to be spoken in our city right now. It is seen on every corner, street, and quadrant.

I experienced it in our neighbors who descended on our house within minutes of the winds stopping (in raincoats, armed with chainsaws) to help clear the trees from our driveway, sidewalk, and street. Once the rains stopped, I saw it in our neighborhood kids, delivering belongings to their owners, some items having owners that lived neighborhoods away! And now that I can get out of my neighborhood, I see it in people like Willie Ray Fairley and his ability to serve so many, so selflessly. One man, who doesn’t depend on fame, riches, or notoriety to know that he can make a difference in the lives of thousands. 

Everyone has the ability to be a helper.

It may look like a lineman, bringing electricity to your neighborhood. Perhaps it is the owner of a chainsaw, who doesn’t know your name, but has become all-too-familiar with the sycamore blocking your driveway. But it is also seen in the 14-year-old who, after 6 days straight of clean up, reminds you that even God rested on the 7th day. Or the 12-year-old, who when carrying a tree trunk matter-of-factly tells her dad that “she doesn’t need a man to do her work.” Or the 9-year-old, who has been instructed to stay back away from danger, thus deems herself a water girl and makes sure that all of the helpers stay hydrated.

Everyone has the gift of being a helper, no matter how big or how small.

So regardless of your age, physical ability, or socioeconomic status … it is time to be a helper. To pick one thing from a never-ending list of things that could bring sunshine into someone’s day today. 

  • Take a bottle of water (or cup from your tap if that is all you can offer) to the worker nearest you. No doubt, they are tired and thirsty and will appreciate the gesture. 
  • Donate a dollar (or two) to storm relief efforts. Venmo: @iowaderecho or PayPal: [email protected]
  • Stop complaining. If you have the means to read this, your lack of electricity is probably not paramount. Advocate for a neighbor who needs electricity to run their oxygen tank or keep their life-preserving medications chilled. 
  • Check out our resources for where to volunteer your time and talent.
  • Drop a few shelf-stable groceries at one of the following locations. 
    • Wellington Heights Resource Center – 319-200-2778 – 392 15th St SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403
    • Human Services Campus –  317 7th Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401
    • Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation – 319-366-2862 – 324 3rd St SE Cedar Rapids, IA 52401
    • Matthew 25 – 201 3rd Ave SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404
    • Mission of Hope – 1700 B Ave NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402
    • HACAP – 1515 Hawkeye Dr. Hiawatha, IA
    • Teamsters Local 238 – 5000 J Street SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404
    • Ely Public Library – 319-848-7616 – 1595 Dows St. Ely, IA 52227
    • Fairfax Library – 313 Vanderbilt Street, Fairfax, IA 52228
    • Palo City Hall – 2800 Hollenbeck Rd, Palo, IA 52324
    • Belle Plaine Community Center – 1309 5th Ave, Belle Plaine, IA 52208
    • Newhall City Hall – 11 2nd Ave, Newhall, IA 52315
    • Keystone Library – 93 Main St, Keystone, IA 52249
    • Tama City Hall – 305 Siegel St, Tama, IA 52339
  • For those who are out of town, and want to help; spread the word.

We are hurting in Cedar Rapids. We will be hurting for a while. Many of my friends and neighbors will be homeless for at least 6 months until they can rebuild, and Iowa winters can be brutal. Top that off with COVID fear, virtual learning without a stable home or connection, job loss–the list of difficulties are numerous. If you have the means, please spread the word and donate or send supplies to the addresses above. 

And above all, please don’t forget us.

The amount of work that has been accomplished over the past week is monumental. Months worth of work has been accomplished in mere days. Entire power grids have been restored. Hundreds of tons of debris have been removed from the city. However, we have months if not years ahead of rebuilding, replanting, and recuperating.

Thank you for being a helper wherever your gifts and talents allow.

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Jaclyn is an Iowa native with roots in the Midwest, but a heart full of wanderlust. She loves to run, read and travel. She and her husband, Mark, have 3 daughters (13, 11, and 7) and an incredible baby boy in Heaven. She spends her days split quite evenly between teaching Spanish at Xavier High School and taxiing her girls around CR as they try to find their passions. She’s a firm believer that it’s not joy that makes us grateful, but rather gratitude that makes us joyful.