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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Preparing for a Disaster

If you do nothing else with what I've written here tonight, please take a moment and read this.

As I prepared to do a presentation on our trip to Japan last year, I ran across this blog. It impressed me in so many ways, but this particular post left a HUGE mark. A mark that will probably never leave me.

One thing that going to Japan did was make disasters take on a new facet. I have been concerned with emergency preparedness for most of my life, but I have to admit, because I've lived in safe circumstances, that I held these kinds of things at arms length. The experience in Japan made tragic circumstances so real and so human. I realized that part of our preparations had to be more than just having enough water and food for our family in the event of an emergency, it had to include some kind of emotional preparation.

A few months after returning, we sat down as a Primary presidency and created a plan to begin some of this emotional preparation for the children we look after. We know that if a disaster were to occur, our church building would become a Red Cross shelter. It is a fact that if something terrible were to happen to any of our family, the rest would gather there. It is possible that in such a situation, our children could be in the care of complete strangers. This is an awful reality to face, but I'm sure that the mother in the story from the link above would never have dreamed that her little girl would be essentially alone and in such circumstances.

image credit: cowalbagpipes.com
We decided that we wanted there to be a greater chance that the 70 +/- children in our ward would know at least someone that would end up at that same shelter. We decided that the children needed to know more of the adults in our ward, so each week, we invite four people--two children and two adults or youth--to share a talent with the children. One child and one adult present in junior Primary and the other two in senior. It is a simple thing, but it has been so eye-opening. We have had everything from bagpipes played to expressions of love and care for animals to drawings with chalk on chalkboards. My own son got up and showed everyone how he could write his own name. We've had one child share what a good balancer he is and have experienced a drum solo, a guitar solo, and a number of piano solos. We've even had a child doing cartwheels in the back of the room. I have learned so much that I didn't know about the people I rub shoulders with on a weekly basis. It has been truly fascinating!

Although the purpose of this exercise is to make the children aware of those that surround them each Sunday and at church activities, today, something else became very clear to me.

image credit: www.hoosier-rainbows.com
As I greeted children at the door this morning, our talent child walked in proudly carrying a Ziploc bag with all kinds of colorful things in it. I was excited to hear what she had to share. When it was her turn, she and her mom stood in front of the room and told us about all of this five-year-old's creations. She showed us Legos that she'd put together, bracelets and rings made from beads, pages she'd carefully colored and even a stained glass butterfly wind chime. I loved it and secretly wished that I could do such things, but my talents lie elsewhere.

image credit: benchprep.com
After this little girl sat down, one of the women in our ward stood up. In her hands she held a very large, green textbook. On the spine, I could read the word "Calculus." She shared that when she was little,  she loved school, and particularly, math. She told the children that she had struggled with it even though she loved it, had worked her way through it and in college decided to become a math teacher. Wow! I had no idea. Wouldn't it be amazing to be able to think like that?!

As I sat there and listened to these talents, a very strong feeling hit me. During all of these months of seeing kids and adults bring in sports equipment and piano pieces, I learned that we are all so different. Our talents and our experiences are so varied. We all complement each other so well, but although we are different, we are also so much alike through our beliefs and our spiritual experiences. These things bring us together and to a similar place.

What a relief and blessing it is to think that if something were to happen to us, our children would be in the hands of such people as these. We never explained the reason for our "talent spotlight" to the children. We didn't want to scare them. We only wanted to build a foundation. My hope is that through the willingness of these individuals to share a small part of themselves, they will come to know our children and our children will come to know them. My hope is that the emotional strain of a tragedy would in some small way be decreased, and that a repeat of what happened to Luna would never happen to any of the children I know.

1 comment:

Lena Baron said...

Julie, sorry it has been a while since I've said hello:) But I'm still with ya. I know I was supposed to read this post tonight, for many reasons. Thank you! I also want to recommend that you send it in to the ensign. I really think it is very worth sharing with more people!! What a fantastic idea!! Thanks again for your wisdom!

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