I never intended to write this series. While it does fall in line with a mission of encouragement, it was not one of my carefully planned story ideas to write about people who had found a way through great pain. The words you read here were born of witness as I watched great strength rise up in those caught by the storm. I watched many already struggling humans endure even more during one of the heaviest years I can remember, a year weighted to a tipping point by grief and loss. Not even the woman staring at me from the mirror had escaped the scathing winds. The storms of life had barreled down upon us like a tornado ripping the leaves from the land, both literally and figuratively.
We had just started to see the light. After several years of devastation under our collective belts, we had begun to see routines being established alongside old dreams. Conversations now started with sentences about things other than pandemics. It seemed celebrations of progress and forward movement were within reach. Then something started to shift.
Challenges were hitting left and right, not just for me, but for many of my friends and family. Loved ones were moving up to heaven. Tragedies became a daily share around the dinner table. Everywhere we looked, there was something heartbreaking happening. We began to feel the weight of it all upon our shoulders as the cheer faded away, just out of our grasp, and we were left wondering what would happen next.
Then the storm hit. Literally.
During a week in which I already was facing sorrow, my community was met head on by an EF-3 tornado that destroyed thirty-two miles of places and spaces that belonged to people I loved. The weight of loss and tragedy multiplied instantly. The trauma stemming from the snatching away of routines and security, a trauma that we had just spent years trying to recover from, returned full force within minutes. Once again, nothing would ever be the same.
As I sat with and walked beside others in the attempts to recover from devastation, I started noticing something within their descriptions of what happened; something more than just a sad depiction of tragic circumstances. I started hearing stories within their words. Stories of loss and gain, stories of brokenness and revival, stories of tragedy and courage, and stories of overcoming what others said could not be overcome. Hearing these weathered human hearts tell of how they were rising above the pain of this world had become a beautiful rainbow of story before my eyes, but the story did not stop with them.
Because there was also the community.
I watched others run to people who were suffering. They reached out, reached up, lifted each other, and helped just because they were there and could. I watched scores of people band together with only the goals of comfort and service to another; leaving behind their daily routines and priorities to take on the needs of someone else without a moment of hesitation. It was the reminder I needed to see and the proof I had often prayed for that the power of community still existed among us. Those people were the light in a dark place and their actions were the hope within tragedy. It was breathtaking.
The only obvious choice for a writer was to write it. As I witnessed each act of grace and mercy, as I heard one after another story of resilience when everything seemed to be falling apart, I knew these were stories that needed to be told. I knew there had to be another soul out there who would need to hear these words and see that strength, so they could survive their own storm. I had found genuine stories of real people doing what we pray we all would have the strength to do in a time of crisis. I had found light in the story.
This was not the kind of light you keep to yourself. So, one by one, I will be telling their stories to you so you also can see what I was blessed enough to see. And since heartbreak and tragedy seem to be abundant these days, I will continue to tell you the stories of the resilient as long as I keep witnessing a story to tell. I pray I always have the chance to glean the light I find within a person who felt overcome by the mountain and climbed it anyway. I pray you always find the strength you need within every story here. No matter the battle you are facing; I pray these stories help you know you are not facing it alone. I pray that resilience finds you where you are, faith picks you up from the ground, and the witness of love gives you all you need to take one more step higher. Welcome to words of resilience.