Good Zeal

Final report / First chapter

The headline in our local paper read, “Final report: 910 homes, 98 businesses damaged in city.” It may be the final report, but it’s just the beginning of the story.

I had occasion to speak by phone recently with two local business people, both of whom had businesses damaged and one of whom is currently displaced as a result of the April 27th tornado. They were routine business calls, but these days routine conversations invariably turn more personal. Both told me, one with still-shaking voice, the stories of how they and their employees reacted and survived the storm. One told me which door to use now that their main entrance is unusable. The other told me where she’s temporarily located while her business is rebuilt.

Nine hundred ten homes plus ninety eight businesses. It adds up to over a thousand narratives of fear, of survival, of taking stock, of rebuilding. The official tally may be important, but it’s the stories that tell the actual tale, the still-shaking voice that bears the real report of the storm. And the stories are just beginning.

Tonight at Vespers we recited Psalm 78, a Psalm so long that it is the only one recite instead of chant. It summarizes the story of the people of Israel up until the time of David. As we recited, I thought of the many stories that are being told, and will continue to be told, here in Cullman – stories of fear, survival, taking stock, rebuilding. I thought of the thousand stories, and so many others beyond our small city, for which the “final report” is just the first chapter in what may be a long and arduous narrative.

May we keep in prayer those who are now writing chapter one of a story of indeterminate length, a narrative they did not set out to write. May it be a be a narrative of hope and healing. And as stories helped the ancient Israelites pass their heritage from generation to the next, may the stories we tell help bind us together.

I will open my mouth in story,
drawing lessons from of old.
We have heard them, we know them;
our ancestors have recited them to us.
We do not keep them from our children;
we recite them to the next generation,
The praiseworthy and mighty deeds of the Lord,
the wonders that he performed.
From Psalm 78

At top is a book the tornado blew into our woods. Below are a few scenes from our fair city:

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