Compassion and Gratitude – Lessons From the Henrville, Indiana Tornado

I told you guys I was going to visit my family in Indiana. Well, that vacation turned out to be more than we bargained for! While we were there my Mom’s town, Henryville, was hit by an EF4 tornado.

We heard that some serious storms were coming our way and since my Mom doesn’t have a basement, we decided it would be best to go to my brother’s house to ride out the storm.  We were not expecting what was going to happen next.

We picked my younger sister up from school early and headed to my brother’s house. Not very long after we arrived there we started hearing the news that Henryville was being hit hard by multiple devastating tornadoes.  We were nervous and scared as we watched video of my sister’s school and much of the town completely destroyed.  Thankfully, my Mom’s house stood. There was much damage done but many people lost everything so we counted ourselves lucky.

Part of my Mom’s backyard.
My Mom’s front yard.

In the days to come we walked around the devastated areas and I couldn’t believe my eyes. As we stood among the debris of people’s homes and the school, it felt like we were standing in a movie set. It didn’t feel real. But the emotions of everyone around us were very raw. We watched people sifting through what was left of their homes looking for something, anything, that looked like home to them.

An entire house swept away. Nothing is left.

I was struck at that moment at how lucky we were. The tornado was SO close to flattening my Mom’s house. We were SO close to just staying at her house and riding out that storm alone with four kids. My little sister was SO close to still being at that school. We were spared and I was extremely grateful.

Just down the road…

At the same time we felt kind of guilty. So many lost so much and here we were with electricity and showers and tv. It was difficult to feel grateful without feeling guilty.

But what I learned through that experience was very simple yet very deep.

Compassion and Gratitude go hand in hand. No guilt required.

When you have true compassion for those not as blessed as you, you can’t help but feel extraordinarily grateful for what you have. In one breath you are saying “thank you” and in the next breath you are saying “bless them”.

When you are grateful, truly grateful, for what you have you feel immediate compassion for those who are not so lucky. You just can’t help it.

When you have food to eat and a bed to sleep in, you feel for those with nothing to eat and no where to lay their head. When you are surrounded by people you love and support you, you feel compassion for those who have no one or who have lost them to tragedy. When you have faith and hope in a God who loves you, you feel compassion for anyone who feels hopeless and unloved.

And when you truly feel that kind of compassion and gratitude, you have to DO something about it.

I think this is the way we are meant to live. Riding the line of gratitude and compassion and responding to it on a daily basis.  We can do this in small ways and big ways.

I’d like to encourage you to stop and think deeply about what you are grateful for. If everything you owned was swept away, what would you be left with? Align your priorities so the things in your life are not what are driving you. Enrich your relationships and fill your heart with faith, hope, and love. Things do not make us who we are.

If you would like to DO something to help the people of Henryville, please consider donating to the Red Cross. You can also adopt a teacher as they prepare to get the school back up and running.

What’s left of the school.

Love your neighbor as yourself takes on a whole new meaning when your neighbor has been left with nothing. Consider truly loving your neighbor today. Consider what it means to be grateful and compassionate on a daily basis.

Don’t wait till a tragedy happens.

Consider love today.

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