The Big Storm by Tara Randel

Unless you’ve been completely cut off from current events lately, you know Florida weathered a pretty massive hurricane this month. To all my fellow Floridians, you know exactly what I’m going to talk about today.

Even though Irma hit us on a weekend, the lead-up and clean-up have taken a few weeks out of our lives. About a week before the hurricane was forecast to make landfall, Florida went into a state of emergency. Translation: no water, no gas, no plywood. Unless you were fortunate enough to get out before the shopping frenzy, it was pretty tough finding the essentials.

Then the panic set in.

The hurricane came upon us, which was scary, but thanks to so many believers praying, once the storm made landfall, the intensity lessened. Still, lots of folks in south Florida had damage, but when you think about what could have been…well, if you didn’t believe prayer works before that weekend, I hope you do now.

I live in the Tampa Bay area. We were told Irma would be a Cat 3 and the storm surge would flood the area. Praise God, that didn’t happen. We still had high winds that caused damage, along with heavy rain, but the worst never came to pass. Power went out for a good portion of the state, but at least we had a generator so the five days without electricity wasn’t horrible.

Thankfully, we only lost one tree. It got hung up on the power line, which explained the power outage, But again, as I’ve heard folks say over and over for the last two weeks, it could have been worse.

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The week after the storm saw people outside taking care of wind damage. Right now, if you drive through any neighborhood, you’ll see piles of broken tree branches and debris lining the street. I live in a very woodsy area. Many people cut down perfectly healthy trees because the storm had uprooted them.

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So, two weeks later, things are relatively back to normal. Now that the stress has subsided, I’ve had time to reflect on the events and here are some thoughts I’ve come up with.

  1. People are awesome.

Even before the storm when the stores were crowded and tension was high, people were talkative and friendly, despite the fear. I’ve never had as many conversations in the grocery store as I did that week.

  1. People are kind-hearted.

After the storm, we saw neighbors helping others cut down trees and clean up damage. While everyone was much more calm in the aftermath, the conversations in the stores still continued. “How did you do?” “Everyone okay?” “Do you need any help?”

  1. People are helpful.

In just my church alone, people were helping others clean up and then attending to folks who don’t even go to church. It was kingdom ministry at its finest. While there are always stories of thefts and scams after a major weather event like this, I saw the vast majority of people looking out for others, those they knew and those they didn’t, who now became good friends.

  1. People are generous.

Once the storm passed, there were plenty of people who still needed bottled water. I had bought extra, so we gave the cases away to those who had to boil water or still didn’t have power. Many others gave food and even monetary donations to help those who had been impacted by the storm. The giving spirit showed no bounds this month.

I read this story that, as a reader and writer, touched my heart.

A teacher at a local middle school came back to her classroom once the school had cleaned up after being used as an evacuation center. She teaches reading to kids who have difficulty or little interest in books. The white bookshelf in her room, filled with books the students loved, many of them signed by the authors, were gone. Completely gone. To say she was upset and disappointed is an understatement, but like she told her students, “I guess the people who took the books needed them more than we did.”

Once word got out, YA authors offered to send copies of their books. The local library made donations and is placing orders for replacement books. People sent the teacher money or gift cards to rebuild her library. As much as it initially seemed a tragedy, the teacher will likely double or triple the volume of books than before the storm.

Did I mention people are awesome?

The stories go on and on. If you watch the news, you’ve probably heard some of them.  My hope is that this wonderful side of human nature carries on long after Irma is a memory. We need to show the world that God’s people love and care about this world we live in. I’ll continue to pray for areas still affected by storms, like Houston and now, Puerto Rico. It’s the very least we can do for those in need.

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Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of fifteen novels. Family values, a bit of mystery and, of course, love and romance, are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. Look for her next Harlequin Heartwarming romance, HIS ONE AND ONLY BRIDE, available January 2018 and her next Christmas Town novella in the holiday collection, HEARTWARMING HOLIDAY WISHES, available October 2017.  Visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at Tara Randel Books

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