It’s been too long since I’ve posted on this blog. But today I feel compelled to do so. You see, I live in Atlanta. Well, to be technical, I live in a northern suburb of Atlanta in a city called Alpharetta. I’m sure this week you’ve heard talk of the distinction. Either way, as a resident of the greater Atlanta metro area, I experienced the big snow event of 2014. Now I will be up front by saying I was extremely fortunate. My husband, who travels a great deal for work, was miraculously working from home on Tuesday. Our 3 year old was home too. So our biggest stress was waiting for the bus to bring our kindergartner home when schools let out an hour early. Being not much more than a mile away, she arrived right around when she would on a normal day.
When he dropped her off, the bus driver warned us to be careful, that he’d already slid a bit coming into our neighborhood. That was before 3pm.
There is much to say about what happened this week. Accusations are flying. People are angry, frustrated, and exhausted. I myself am less than pleased with our school system’s delay in letting our children out. There are certainly lessons to be learned from this one. But at the end of the day, snow here is just not the norm. We are ill-equipped. But plenty of people have posted about that.
What I want to share is something I see as worth remembering. And that is the way the people of our city reached out and wrapped their arms around those in need. And there were many in need. The stories of our own friends and family are so numerous I certainly cannot mention them individually. But what I witnessed on social media through the evening and overnight Tuesday into Wednesday was truly the gathering of an angel army.
There’s the friend with the 4X4 who drove through the northern suburbs helping the stranded get home until well past midnight while his wife coordinated rides through Facebook. There’s the stores and institutions who opened their doors to the weary. And countless citizens reached out with assistance like warm homes and a meal. Someone would post where they were, and someone would comment with a home that was willing to take them. Before we knew it, SnowedOutAtlanta was born. Look it up on Facebook. The stories people are telling in the aftermath are simply amazing.
Then there were the stranded. People, including my husband’s own brother, abandoned their cars and walked in the snow to reach their loved ones or a place to sleep. In some cases, these journeys were miles long, taking hours to complete in inadequate footwear. My church gave one of our dear friends a place to warm up and grab a cup of coffee late at night. He kept going, but many stayed until morning. In all, they helped over 200.
This is a metro area of 6 million plus. The stories go on and on. I only know a fraction. But the fraction I do know shows me something.
Tuesday morning, January 28th, 2014, I wrote in my journal before the snow started. Here’s my exact entry:
“I will have trouble in this world. From big storms to bad moods. I must rely on and trust God with each moment. Jesus Calling (by Sarah Young) from January 26th ended with “I (God) am much less interested in right circumstances than in right responses to whatever comes your way.” Wow. Perhaps I should spend less time praying for outcomes and situations and more time praying for my attitude and reactions.”
A few hours later, the people of Atlanta reacted. My fellow Atlantans showed me that, despite the circumstances, their responses were right. My oldest daughter knows that her best friend from school had to walk home in the snow for miles with her mother. Her mother teaches at my daughter’s school but lives in another of our many small cities on the outskirts of Atlanta. But AP doesn’t really understand what that felt like. And she doesn’t understand how the countless people who asked if they could help along their way warmed their hearts and gave them the strength to go on.
That’s the story I’ll tell when she remembers what happened. When she talks about the time she got out of school early and waited extra long for the bus. I’ll tell of the teachers who waited to make sure she was safe. Of those who spent the night with students whose parents were stranded. Of the countless people who did what they could and gave what they had.
I’ll tell of a city whose residents practiced pure religion. Not a mantra, not an agenda. Just pure religion. Caring for those in need. It’s in the Bible. James 1:27. Pure religion is this. Look it up. That’s what happened in Atlanta this week. This week, we weren’t just a disjointed, sprawling metropolis with a transportation problem. We were a city united in caring for each other. It’s one week we’re not soon to forget.