It matters to me. Does it to you? {Alabama tornadoes}

You have 15 minutes before your home is destroyed. What possessions do you grab? Baby albums? Your purse? Jewelry?

But what if it’s my house you’re going through, not your own? How would you know what’s important to me? You might not know to grab my Kali shadow box off the living room wall, or where to find the home videos or the external hard drive with all my photos.

So as I walked down the gravel road Friday in the Coxey community to where Chasady’s home stood earlier in the week, I wanted to know more about her before we started picking through her belongings.


I found out she has a job, she has a son, and she has an awesome cousin (also with us) who was helping her out.

Chasady said she usually ignores storm warnings. But something was different Monday afternoon. Somehow she knew she needed to leave altogether this time instead of just walking to the nearby storm shelter.

If she hadn’t, she wouldn’t even have her car now, the only thing she owns that she assumed was not destroyed by the EF-3 tornado, one of 20 that touched down across central and northern Alabama on April 28, 2014, (three years and one day after the deadly 62 Alabama tornadoes of April 27, 2011).

She couldn’t imagine anything of value remaining. And as we passed other homes on our walk, we saw little reason to hope.


But when we got to her place, and started picking underneath the twisted metal and wet wood, we were surprised not only to find one of her shoes, but also its match a few feet away.

And the more we looked, the more we found. Purses, shampoo, a pink hair bow (whose? not hers), a package of bologna, a throw rug. And many more shoes.

I wasn’t sure what to put in the keep pile and what to trash. This angel figurine? Washcloths buried in mud the last four days? A “Mrs. Potts” toy? All dirty, but salvageable with some cleanup.

It’s hard to know what is important to someone else when you don’t know them.

But I’d rather save too much now and let her throw it away later, than throw away now what she could never retrieve later.

After we’d rescued what we could, Chasady kept digging for two more things: her DVDs of The Bible miniseries and a brand new box of contacts she’d bought days earlier. These were things important to her.

We found neither by the time I had to walk away. She allowed me to pray a blessing over her. We cried. We hugged.

Then I drove home to my intact house, took a hot shower in my clean bathroom, and put on dry clothes from my own closet.

And I lay on my bed and cried some more.

Lord, have mercy.

* * *

We’re rarely in situations that require big decisions like what to salvage after a tornado.

Yet we ALL face mini-decisions DAILY of whether to value or demean what’s important to somebody else by the attention we give or withhold.

Better to pay more attention than not enough. Show more care than too little. Jesus said don’t just give up your shirt, give up your coat as well; go the second mile (Matthew 5:40-41).

How can you honor someone else’s valuables today? Look at photos of their grandkids? Ask about their newest body pain? Listen to their marriage problems?

If someone matters to you, let what matters to them also matter to you.



Mindfulness by Ellen Langer


54 thoughts on “It matters to me. Does it to you? {Alabama tornadoes}

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I had another reminder this morning when my electricity went off. But only for an hour. I need wake-ups to things other people are suffering through….

  1. Linda@Creekside

    Oh my, Lisa. You have put a face to this tragedy. You have swiftly taken us from our endless self-absorption to what matters most. People. Their souls. Their families. And all that encompasses their lives.

    And this, here – ‘Better to pay more attention than not enough. Show more care than too little.’

    I am truly sorry for all the loss swirling around you. I hope that you, my friend, are safe. I am praying for you right now. And yes, yes, Lord, have mercy.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, Linda, it’s the people. That’s what makes all the difference. One good thing about this kind of clean-up is often you do get to meet the homeowners, and that is always huge to me, to see the faces, hear the stories. It definitely makes it personal.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for your prayers, Floyd. They make a difference. Many of these folks are left with nothing due to no insurance. May the people of God continue to rise up and make provision.

  2. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    The most precious thing another person may have is their worldview, and we need to not mess with that.

    Case in point – my wife comes from a fairly conventional background. I have PTSD, and carry memories of things I would prefer not to describe. The Duke of Wellington said that there’s nothing as melancholy as a battle lost as a battle won, and he’s right.

    And here’s the story. You may not like me after reading it. I don’t like me much, either.

    Over the weekend my oldest and most beloved dog died in my arms. It was hard, but the fact remained that we had to bury her. My wife helped dig the grave.

    I made the offhand remark that this was a lot easier than burying people you know piece by piece, and my wife threw up.

    It was a horrible thing for me to say. I was trying to distance myself from the very real pain of loss with a comparison based on experience – and while it made the moment easier for me, it hurt my wife. She knows about that stuff from my past, but hates to hear it.

    The point is that while it was MY reality from years ago, (and still is today, in terms of what can’t be forgotten) it is NOT part of my wife’s world, and I had no right to set it down in front of her, to lighten my burden by increasing hers.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      So sorry about the loss of your precious dog. 🙁 Hard stuff. I appreciate you sharing that here.

      You’ve obviously faced levels of painful things that most of us can’t even imagine. And while we may not be ready to hear ALL of each others’ stories from our pasts (or present), we still benefit in the telling and listening to ones that we are ready for and can grow from. I guess the difficulty is in distinguishing which ones those are…I’m guessing you have to discover that often the hard way too, through trial-and-error, counseling, prayer, etc. Praying blessings on you and your wife’s journey.

      1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

        Lisa, thank you – it was hard. We have a rescue, with 25 dogs…and the loss of one is no easier for that.

        I think that where we have to be careful in sharing stories is in making sure that we don’t take advantage of a captive audience, or spring an experience as a sort of verbal ambush.

        One of the hard things about PTSD is that it encourages an internal trivialization of the ‘everyday’, and that’s unfair and wrong. My experiences simply are what they are, and should not be held up in comparison…or, worse, used as a verbal bludgeon.

        It may sound like an implicit requirement to withdraw, not to talk – and it can be just that.

        1. LisaNotes Post author

          “spring a verbal ambush” – yeah, I hear you that that’s not fair. I appreciate when people forewarn me that they’re about to share something graphic (or whatever) so I can decide for myself whether I want to listen/watch further or stop there.

          We all need somebody we can share the hard, ugly stuff with, though. I guess we just have to be selective about who that is. I hope in general that more of us learn how to be safer places for those who need to share rough stories, especially with more cases of PTSD now, from whatever the source. I know I’m pretty ignorant about the specifics of it; mostly what I know is from TV/movies, which surely can’t be trusted as accurate.

          1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

            One of the best representations of PTSD in recent popular culture is found in “The Hurt Locker” – and I think it was accidental.

            The main character, and EOD tech deployed to Iraq, is really well portrayed as having crossed the line to where the mission has become all-important, diminishing his ability to relate to life in an America at ‘peace’.

            The tag line for the movie’s publicity was “war is a drug”, and it completely misses the point. War becomes the biggest thing in a combatant’s life, and the responses and values are simply not switched off at the end of a deployment.

            The technical aspects of the movie are pretty laughable – an EOD who did the stuff shown would not live long (not would he have the job in the first place), but the human aspects are a gem.

            An older film that also makes the point is “The Best Years of Our Lives”.

  3. Jody Collins

    Lisa, no tornadoes here in the Pacific Northwest, but it occurred to me people are walking through all kinds of ‘storms’ all around us. This line was powerful: “Better to pay more attention than not enough. Show more care than too little.”

    gonna chew on that one for awhile.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Exactly, Jody. Most everybody is experiencing some kind of storm to some degree of intensity most of the time. And in addition to those in our “real” lives, we are often inundated with so much news coverage in the media of tragedies all over the world, that we can want to turn off altogether. I struggle to fight against that.

  4. Beth S.

    What a beautiful blessing you were to this woman. Such a touching story and a powerful reminder to those of us who stop by to read. “Better to pay more attention than not enough. Show more care than too little.” Those words will be on my heart. Words I hope I do better at living out.
    Blessings to you.

  5. tinuviel

    What a blessing to her your presence and help must have been! Sometimes it’s hard for the person herself to make those decisions, paralyzing and clarity-draining as the stress of the moment can be. I thank God for sending you to her in her time of need and ask His comfort and provision for all affected by those nasty storms.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Don’t give me any credit, Christina. My time there was so limited and my help so minimal compared to all that she’s going to have to process in the next few months. 🙁

      But you’re right that it is hard to make decisions when you’re so overwhelmed. I have a hard time even deciding what to have for supper when I come back from a day there so I can’t even imagine what they’re going through. Thanks for your prayers for them; I know they appreciate that.

  6. ceil

    Hi Lisa!
    What a huge experience for you…so emotional. And what a help you were to your friend! Your word for this year is ‘compassion’ and you certainly applied that to your walk and salvage mission.
    I don’t have any idea what I would save if there was a tornado coming. I tend to freeze up in an emergency, it’s so had to think straight. I love your questions about valuing others though. People are the real treasures. I hope I could remember that.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      These types of experiences are definitely emotional for me. A couple days earlier I helped drags limbs to the road as the guys chainsawed them. That was meaningful work in that we could actually see progress, but my heart is drawn more to days like this one with Chasady. I’m glad the Lord gifts us all differently; if it were up to me to chainsaw, we’d all be in trouble. 🙂

      It’s hard for me to think quickly in emergencies too. I need time to process, and sometimes we just aren’t given time. But grace even then; thank you, Lord.

  7. Beth

    “It’s hard to know what is important to someone else when you don’t know them.” … So true. I’m learning to listen more and talk less to know people more.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Listening more, talking less–I imagine many of our relationships would look different if we all practiced that more diligently. Blessings to you in your efforts to do this, Beth.

  8. Dolly@Soulstops

    Amen…Thank you, Lisa, for being that compassionate person to Chastity…and a reminder to pray for the victims of the tornado…FYI…Family Life link to help victims …you may have already seen this….

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for sharing that link, Dolly. I had not seen it. I have the Apr 29 Family Life broadcast on my podcast queue (“God of the Whirlwind”–I’m assuming it’s about the tornadoes) but haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet. I know it’ll be touching.

    1. Lisa

      It’s sometimes so hard for me to watch the news–so many things going on that I can do nothing about but pray. But when it’s physically close or happens to someone I know, it’s suddenly far more important. That was this news item to me. Thanks for stopping in, Kathleen.

  9. TC Avey

    I’ve read so many sad stories about people loosing loved ones. It’s horrible.
    I’ve helped clean up after two tornadoes before, both were devastating. What stands out in my mind fifteen(ish) years after one event was the animals walking around with limbs torn off. They were scared. They were hurting. It made no sense. The people who owned the horses completely ignored the fact that their home was gone, they simply wanted to help round their precious animals up and help them. I was blessed to be there to help. As I said, that experience has stayed with me all these years.

    1. Lisa

      Oh, the thought of seeing those animals. Yikes–no wonder if made an impression on you. One lady I talked to this week rode out the tornado inside her trailer because she didn’t want to leave her 7 cats. It’s amazing how much love and selflessness can come from inside us, even for animals. (She and her cats survived, although all will be skiddish for awhile.)

  10. Trudy

    So sad. I’m so sorry Chasady didn’t find what is important to her. It’s so hard to understand the physical and emotional losses in our lives, but when we experience them ourselves or hear stories like these, we learn to better appreciate what we still have. You have such a caring heart, Lisa. I love the verse you shared – “Better to pay more attention than not enough. Show more care than too little.”

    1. Lisa

      I felt so bad, too, that Chasady didn’t find those items. We all have different things that are valuable to us for reasons special to us. I saw her again Tuesday and she seemed to be in good spirits, although I’m sure it’s going to take a long time to fully heal from all the losses.

  11. Kelli Woodford

    No small thing here, Lisa. Climbing through the rubble and sorting through debris – yes. Helping her regain some sense of balance by the things you returned to her – yes. But what was really HUGE, friend, was your heart. The way you SAW her in your minds eye – in all her dimensions. The way you considered what would bless her … There is a reason the Bible says “Love never fails” – and I believe the love you have displayed here will not return void, Lisa, even if its effects remain hidden from your own eyes. Beautiful, beautiful post.

    Thanks for linking with the Unforced Rhythms community.

    1. Lisa

      I appreciate your encouragement, Kelli. I have such a tendency to feel guilty when I have to leave places like that to return home to my “mansion” compared to their rubble. But I trust that the Lord works to heal all of us in situations like this, both those being helped as well as the helpers. I’m grateful for what he continues to teach me, even if I’m slow to learn.

  12. bluecottonmemory

    My husband’s family was in a school gym in the ’74 tornadoes – and his grandparents lost their house, the car was upside down in the pond – cows were flung into other pastures – Their stories about it are the people who huddled in the school hallway moments after they left a gym that wasn’t there 5 minutes later – and discovering their grandparents, a farm over were o.k. – but the rebuilding was hard – because the barns and cows were more than pictures and tables – it was a lifetime of work.

    Bless your heart for reaching out and your friend’s heart as she rebuilds!

    1. Lisa

      Oh my. Those stories are ones people never forget and that are passed down from generation to generation. I remember being in my basement during the tornadoes of ’74, with my dad going outside periodically to watch the storms, and how scared that made me for him. We escaped a direct hit from those, too, but were without electricity for days. I can’t imagine how your husband’s grandparents felt losing a lifetime of work. May we all be aware of the pain of other people’s losses.

  13. Alecia

    I lived in northern AL in April of 2011, it’s a day I will NEVER forget. My community was nearly destroyed. I still have nightmares of tornadoes…as do my kids. I used to be that person that ignored the warnings bc of overzealous weathermen, but not anymore. Knowing that people cared and showed up to check on us and help meant more than anything. When we are the hands and feet of Christ to those that need it, it really is all that matters.

    1. Lisa

      Wasn’t that a scary time! I totally blew it off the first few hours of April 27, 2011, meeting a friend for lunch, until her husband called us to make sure we were aware of the tornadoes headed our way (we weren’t). It became real to me then.

      Tornadoes have been one of my recurring nightmares for years so I understand you and your kids dreaming about them still. I’m glad people showed up afterwards for you; they did for me, too. Those things matter.

  14. jdukeslee

    Oh goodness. You were right in the thick of it. Goodness, friend. I’m so sorry … but so glad you were on the front lines to be Jesus to some people who needed a whole lotta Jesus.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It’s been my honor to be able to serve these families, most of whom I’ll never meet. But their needs are real, and hopefully they’ll see that Jesus is real by the tangible work being done on their behalf.

  15. Krista

    I could never imagine going through something like this… How humbling it must’ve been to be right there with Chasady helping her sort through her possesions.
    I pray that she is able to recover the items she really wanted to find and all who were affected by this horrible event are able to come together and rebuild even stronger than before.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for your prayers, Krista. It’s hard for me to imagine too. I hope neither of us ever have to see our own stuff thrown every which way in a pile of rubble. It’s overwhelming enough to see other people’s stuff. 🙁

  16. Renee

    You certainly opened our eyes and our hearts with this Lisa. Bless you for your compassion and bless those who are struggling to recover from such devastating losses.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Renee. It will take several of these families a very long time to recover since most had no insurance. But by the grace of God, I pray too that they will be blessed as they make fresh starts.

  17. Cherry

    Good thoughts, Lisa – thanks for sharing your thoughts, and giving us a picture of what true compassion and love for others looks like. What a sweet blessing you were as you helped out … not just going through the mechanics, but really caring and loving the person.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I didn’t do much to help her, but hopefully she did see that there were lots of people around her who care and who want to help in ways we can. I will continue to lift her in prayer, but trusting the Lord to do the real heavy lifting for all of us.

  18. Juliet

    I admit I lost track of your word as I was blown away by the story you were telling and then by the accounts in comments of people surviving tornadoes and dealing with the fallout from previous traumas. I suppose I was dimly aware that these things happen but we don’t hear about most of them over here in England. I didn’t realise how frequent they were! I’ll have to come back and read this again with your other reflections to really get a grip on where you are coming from with your One Word 365. Glad I found this through Amy Young’s linkup at The Messy Middle.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Glad we found each other, Juliet. I’ve not been very “intentional” about linking up my One Word this year. {smile}

      Yes, tornadoes are definitely a spring and fall occurrence here, but usually not to this extent. We had a very unusual outbreak in 2011, then one more in 2012 that destroyed some of the homes that had just been rebuilt. So to have this in 2014 again close to home does seem like a bit much for one area. But nonetheless, it is what it is, and while I can’t explain why it happens, I do know I’m to respond with compassion when it does. God must have known I’d need this word this year. 🙂

  19. Amy Young

    Lisa, what I am most struck by is … you continued to model and BE compassionate here in the comments. The reminder to be compassionate is one we (I –!!) need more often than I think I do :). Thanks for linking up with Trusting Tuesdays!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Aw, that’s a sweet thing to say, Amy. Thanks. It’s funny how this One Word stuff really does get into our bones! Thanks for doing the link-up. I made a note to remember it’s the third Tuesday next month. I think I can roll with that. 😉

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      And I have to avoid those tornado shows. ha. They make me dream about tornadoes when I’d rather not.

      Couldn’t get my comment on your blog to go through so I’ll just respond here that I love your One Word: Alive. Great choice. I like the questions you’re asking yourself. Often we have no idea what another person has been thinking when we see them fly off the handle at us (or whatever). Everybody’s got their stuff. Our choice is how we respond back.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.