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The Afterglow of Giving Back: Helping Us Get Past Hurricane Sandy

It's been a month since Hurricane Sandy made landfall here in New Jersey (I blogged about our experience, once we got power back) and although the news crews and Weather Channel folks have since moved on to other more immediate and pressing matters (sadly, there is bad stuff happening in the world, all the time)  reminders of just how cataclysmic this storm really was remain and, well, the devistation isn't going away anytime soon.

I realize that some folks may be growing tired or even a little weary of hearing about yet another Sandy story (I'm looking at you, dude on my Facebook stream who insisted that Jersey should just get over it already) trust me, we get it.

On the other hand, a large percentage of my husband's customers are small business owners who lost both their homes AND their livelihood, excuse my Jersey when I tell you:  he hears it ALL friggin' day.  In fact, there are people STILL living it, every day.

Either way, the sense of helplessness is incredibly overwhelming.

Elizabeth and her son at Samaritan's Purse
So, when my good friend, and fellow NJ Digital Mom, Elizabeth Norton  (that's her up there with one of her adorable sons!)  suggested we get together and help give back by volunteering to serve dinner to the good folks of Samaritan's Purse (a non-denominational Christian organization providing relief to victims of war, poverty and natural disaster) I was all, like, FRIGGIN'YAH!

Holly and Me at Samaritan's PurseI got to share the experience with my oldest daughter and, honestly, she and I were a little nervous about how the evening would play out. 

Samaritan's Purse volunteers are helping out folks hardest hit here in Atlantic, Ocean and Monmouth County (where we live) traveling from as far south as North Carolina, Mississippi and Texas, removing trees and cleaning out homes (they call it "mud outs")  so, Holly and I can ONLY IMAGINE the stories they've been listening to.

I mean, some of the volunteers are away from their families for weeks at a time.

Samaritan's Purse Volunteer Dinner 2At the end of the day, the volunteers reconvene at a church in Toms River, NJ (just a couple of miles from where my folks live) and, frankly, I was expecting most (if not all) of these poor people to be done for the day.

I mean, like not looking forward to ANY small talk sort of, really done. 

Pepperidge Farms at Samaritan's Purse
Holly and I were in charge of putting together the cookie trays (thanks, A LOT, Elizabeth)  that were donated by the good folks at Pepperidge Farms and, well, where else better to exercise one's willpower than a church...YO!

Samaritan's Purse Volunteer Dinner
Then we set up and started serving dinner, also donated by the equally awesome folks at KFC, and soon my fear of "Okay, so what am I going to say to these people, anyways?" was put to rest.

"Thank you SO MUCH for what y'all doin' here, Ma'am!"

Wait, what?!? 

"No, no, no, THANK YOU!!!"

This went on all night, the Samaritan's Purse folks kept thanking each of us NJ Digital Moms, ALL NIGHT.  

Although, my and Beth's new friend Jim seemed MORE than happy to help indulge us in a little PDA and then text his buddies back home in Texas with:  two fantastic Jersey Girls that's made my day!!!!

Then, the volunteers got back "down to bih'ness" and, if felt moved enough, began sharing their day of listening to survivor stories and helping victims find a higher purpose in their suffering. 

That's where they lost me.

Samaritan's Purse SharingConfession:  we are not a church-going family (kindly heathens, nonetheless)  and the folks here come from a very different world:  we say soda, you say "What kind of Coke y'all want?" followed by "Bless your heart!" if need be.

On this night, we were invited into their circle and joined in their prayers.  Holly and I could not help but feel as if we had just become a part of something much, much BIGGER.Samaritan's Purse Dinner LineWe were ALL here for the same purpose:  to help us get past that overwhelming sense of helplessness and understand the true meaning of Jersey Strong.  

Beth, Elizabeth and Erica at Samaritan's Purse
It was an extreme honor and privilege serving the awesome group of volunteers from Samaritan's Purse, alongside my fellow NJ Digital Moms, Beth, Elizabeth and Erica.

Elizabeth and Me Samaritan's Purse
The afterglow of giving back:  did I mention, Elizabeth coordinated the ENTIRE evening AND she is like 36 months pregnant or something?!? 

Serving food to 108 people had NUH'THIN on trying to get this woman to sit down...because, HELLLLOOOOO!!!!...my borked-up back hurt just looking at you walk funny like that :)

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