field notes from the wake of a tornado, part 2

Some of you may remember that on May 27, 2008, I posted some “field notes” from my experience as a volunteer in Windsor, Colorado, a town of about 18,000 that was hit hard by a tornado just before Memorial Day weekend. You can read the original post here if you like.

Since then, I’ve been back to Windsor on numerous occasions, working with The Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services in its efforts to provide three hot meals a day plus 24-hour snacks and drinks to all comers. I have found the experience to be profoundly satisfying, in fact, opening a doorway into a new world of service that continues to beckon me with greater insistency.

Herewith, some more notes I have compiled…

The Link Between Disasters and Astrology

Curious to know more about the etymology of the word “disaster,” I was intrigued to learn that the word has its roots in astrology. From a website called (which seems to have “gone dark,” yet still has a very interesting archives for word enthusiasts to poke through), comes this:

“This word was first used in astrological terms to refer to an unfavorable aspect of a star. English took the word from French d’sastre, which referred to ‘a disaster, misfortune, calamatie, misadventure, hard chance,’ as it was defined in the mid-16th century. It was taken by the French from Italian disastra, which was formed from the earlier disastrata “ill-starred.” Its components are dis- “bad” and astra “star” (ultimately from the Greek astran, which also gave us such words as astronomy and aster, a type of flower which is “star-shaped.” ) At one time, all events in human existence were attributed to the motions of the planets. Thus, in 1684, a diarist recorded, “I am very sick with a disaster upon my stomach.” This usage parallels that of ‘influenza,’ which derives from the Italian phrase ‘influenza degli steiil’ or “influence of the stars.”

Regardless of Popular Opinion, Tis Still Easier to Give than Receive

Whatever their reasons, motivations, desires or callings, people are coming forth in droves around the globe to offer their hearts, hands, and heads in service. Alas, the capacity to receive is still snarled by cultural conditioning, pride, and the ego mind. There remains so much discomfort around receiving that which is freely offered. What a joy it is to gently remind people that we are steeped in abundance and that they may have as much as they like, as often as they like, without hesitation, guilt, or embarrassment. Even better, I am able to do this not by telling, but through grounded action. A hot meal, a bag of snacks, a jug of water, a big old bear hug, carry a much deeper message than words ever could.

Finding The New Paradigm in the Least Likely Places

In my home county, there seems to be undue focus on the trappings of consciousness. One must have the politically (and spiritually?) correct home furnishings, vehicles, clothing, activities, workshops, classes, adventure trips. In the parking lot where hundreds of people are fed daily, each day is marked by fully-embodied demonstrations of prosperity, unconditional love, non-judgment, community, gratitude, and connection. No one is talking about finding their purpose in life, discussing the need to create greater satisfaction through service, frantically looking for proof of the presence of Creation in its angelic and divine forms: we’re all simply living it. Not so much talk, way more walk…

Seen Handwritten on a T-Shirt: Mother Nature’s A Bitch

Well, not exactly. Yet She does seem to be frustrated and more than a bit unhappy. Like many of us, Mother Nature/Mother Earth is purging and releasing, fiercely declaring “Enough!,” and going through massive upheavals of transformation. Not always a pretty sight. My spiritual worldview includes a knowing that incarnate souls (that would be you and me, by and large) do make free-will choices and, at some infinitely deep level, have agreed to the experiences wrought by natural disasters. This neither diminishes nor denies the material and emotional losses many sustain, though, for me at least, it provides a greater context in which to view things.

The Time To Create Community is Now, Before Disaster Strikes

If it takes large-scale events to bring Good Samaritans out of the closet and into the thick of it, that’s a good thing. If we connect more with the other folks in our communities before we are all thrust into chaotic worlds gone upside-down, that’s a great thing. I’m planning to go through some training so that I can be of greater service in a variety of situations. How about you? Besides the American Red Cross, there are a variety of large, well-organized, faith-based groups that effectively support people (and their animals) in emergency disaster situations — including The Salvation Army, The Adventists, The Southern Baptists, and many local/regional churches.

No matter what your own spiritual/religious leanings, these are powerful vehicles in which you can join up with others and walk your talk in service. The qualifications are simple: Open hearts, open hands, open minds, and that still, small voice whispering to you, “Get out there now and share your light with the world.”

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