Blessed, to be a blessing.
That’s all I could think about as we returned to Hilton Head Island after evacuating for Hurricane Matthew. Nothing hit our house. Nothing hit the car in the driveway.
Around the corner, a tall pine crashed onto the roof of the house with the prettiest yard.
My junky yard has nine pines and three oaks in the front yard, and six oaks in the back yard. None of them budged, while an oak four yards into the neighbor’s yard was splintered. Its trunk, bigger than I can wrap my arms around, snapped a huge pine on its way down. Neither of them hit either of our houses.
So you’re left asking, Why?
All I can think of is a sermon from Doug Fletcher at First Presbyterian on Hilton Head. We didn’t have church the day after the storm. Nobody was here. But the week before, he read in Genesis God’s covenant with Abram. He said it was the theme of the whole Bible.
I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.
And so now so many of us had been blessed … in order to be a blessing.
My wife got home first on Tuesday. When she crossed the bridge just after it reopened at 3 p.m., small groups of people stood on the roadside at Windmill Harbour. They waved American flags. They held up a poster saying, “Welcome Home.” They held thumbs up. They flashed the peace sign. They smiled.
They were a blessing.
At work on Tuesday, I jumped on a boat headed for Daufuskie Island. We saw boats washed way into the marsh like toys. Pilings bobbed around, looking too much like the crash-diving brown pelicans. Large chunks of dock were washed up on hummocks. Most docks were stripped to the bones.
Skipper Clay Emminger of the Beaufort Water Search and Rescue started running these waters when he was 10. This squad of volunteers is usually out looking for the stranded when the wind is blowing ice cold in the dark.
But this was a beautiful October day. We zipped under the bridge to Hilton Head, the long line of vehicles coming home looking from our view like an army of ants.
The squad’s mission this day was to take water to the people of Daufuskie Island. They didn’t know anyone there, but were told there was a need.
They wanted to be a blessing.
The next day, I got an email from the Maranatha Farm all-volunteer animal rescue in Ridgeland, where we got our dog Brae Brae.
“This weekend, instead of an adoption event, our volunteers have expressed to me their desire to help the elderly and handicapped with cleaning up their properties,” founder Karen Wilkins writes. “Let us bring gloves, saws, rakes, whatever tools you want to use, and dress for protection but please wear your Maranatha Farm T-shirt so people will know we are there to help.”
They want to be a blessing.
If you remember Hurricane Hugo in 1989 — truly a “big one” that missed us by a few miles but blasted our neighbors — the big story came after the winds and floods: A local radio station matched one person in need with one volunteer, and it mushroomed into a 24-hour, computerized help center that went on for weeks.
The blessed knew innately that they should become a blessing.
After our trip to Daufuskie, I got dropped off at Skull Creek Marina. In all these years, it’s the first time I got a ride home from work in a boat.
I looked over to the Talbird Cemetery, there by the marshes of Skull Creek. It’s a beautiful place. Its tall oaks and water breezes make this Gullah place finer than Europe’s cathedrals. Many of the Gullah want to be buried by the waters. And the waters came, and the winds blew over oak trees with exposed root systems taller than I am.
One branch came to rest on the tombstone of dear friends, Charles and Dorothy Young. She was the one whose Christmas decorations at the corner of Gum Tree and Wild Horse roads were so festive that they attracted lines of cars each year.
She was a blessing.
Now it’s our turn.
Contact Mr. Lauderdale at firstname.lastname@example.org or @ThatsLauderdale.