LESLIE CRISS: In tragedies, ‘who is my neighbor’ easy to answer

“Living things have been doing just that for a long, long time. Through every kind of disaster and setback and catastrophe.
We are survivors.”– Robert Fulghum

“Your neighbor is the man who needs you.”– Elbert Hubbard

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.”– Edmund Burke

When destruction and disaster dominated the day last Wednesday, I watched as photographers and reporters bravely headed into the storm in order to document it for our readers.
Though I was happy to stay safely inside, I must confess to a few pangs of envy. After all, it’s all about the story. And last week – and in the days and months to come – there will continue to be stories told about the lives most affected by the devastating storms.
But I also learned something a long time ago as I sat at my desk in a near-empty newsroom in another city. Many of my colleagues were out covering a tragic school bus accident. As the features editor, I stayed behind, finishing up the next day’s feature pages.
Editing Dear Abby, Hints from Heloise and People in the News seemed senseless in light of what was happening at the site of that crash.
Then my editor told me the things that might seem mundane and unimportant in the midst of tragedies might just be, in a small way, what helped life get back to some semblance of normalcy at some point.
Perhaps he was right.

As we watched and listened for warnings of where the next storm might touch down, I’m sure we all had in mind family, friends and other folks with whom we are acquainted who lived near the areas under siege.
I called my parents in Corinth to make sure they were staying dry and in one piece. They assured me they were fine.
When I heard about the decimation in Tuscaloosa, Ala., I immediately began trying to get in touch with my childhood friend, Joy. She finally sent a text: She was OK, but her city would likely not be OK for a long time.
Another text early Thursday morning from my sister let me know her family in Huntsville, Ala., would likely be without power four or five days. Their home was unscathed, but no power in the large city meant no gasoline, no opened stores, no cooking. They were heading to Mississippi to take refuge.
The more I read about the death and destruction in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and beyond, it made little difference whether or not I knew personally people whose lives had been forever changed.
My concern went out to everyone – friends and strangers alike – who had lost loved ones or their homes or their livelihoods – or all three.
I’m sure it was the same with you.
And I’m sure we began searching for ways to reach out and offer help.
Because that’s what it means to be in community with one another.
That’s what neighbors do.

Contact Leslie Criss at leslie.criss@ journalinc.com or (662) 678-1584.

Leslie Criss/NEMS Daily Journal

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