The Power of Community Strikes Again
September 14, 2008. It was a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon, when suddenly Hurricane Ike kicked up 75 mph winds and knocked out power in about 80% of the state. Which is weird, because the state is Kentucky, about a thousand miles from Galveston, Texas, where Ike made landfall the day before.
After ripping through the Bluegrass State, Ike travelled northeast, where it continued wreaking havoc into Ohio. Which is weird, because Ohio is where I happened to be for the weekend with my entire family, celebrating my Dad’s 84th birthday.
We knew the winds were unusually strong, what with all the tables and chairs blowing across the yard. And we thought it was sort of strange that the stop signs were leaning horizontally, flapping violently. Not something you see every day in central Ohio. All we were missing was the Weather Channel Guy with the hood over his head getting pelted by rain drops.
Since everyone was a little freaked out, we decided to cut the weekend short and get on the road for the 3-hour drive home.
After driving white-knuckled for about 15 minutes, we pulled off into a Fazoli’s, because — call me crazy — I like it when all 4 of our vehicle’s tires touch the ground a the exact same time. I seriously thought our car would flip. Unfortunately, fast-food Italian just isn’t as appetizing when the aluminum awning is ripping off the outside of the restaurant during dinner. Scary.
After a few hours, the freakishly-strong winds died down and we safely headed to Louisville.
Very, very DARK and quiet Louisville: The land of dead store signs, invisible street lights and flashing traffic signals. They weren’t kidding about the power outage. It was downright eerie.
We pulled into our driveway around 11 pm, with 3 mildly frightened, yet terribly sleepy children, anxious for everyone to get into their beds, with or without electricity. And that’s when we discovered the downside of having child safety locks.
Let me back up. When my son Elijah was 2-years-old, we moved from Florida to Kentucky. And something about being in a new house propelled my little boy into the endless cycle of walking out the doors unannounced, followed by one of us discovering he wasn’t there, followed by Psycho-Sandy Cooper wandering up and down the streets of our new neighborhood screaming my son’s name, followed by one of us finding Elijah either by the creek, or at the bottom of a hill or in the house of a kind-yet-unfamiliar neighbor. True story.
Thus, we installed these on every door.
Which I diligently locked every single day to save the life of my son and the sanity of, well…Me.
Now, fast-forward back to the night of the hurricane. (I know I’m taking you through several states and time-periods here, so get up and stretch, go get a drink of water, whatever you need to get through the time warp) we hit the city limits and it was pitch black. We approached our neighborhood, and it was pitch black. We drove into our driveway, and it was pitch black. I mean, you couldn’t see houses or building or anything. The power was out pretty much everywhere, and here we were in our darkened driveway trying to open our electric garage door.
Emphasis on “electric.”
No problem, you say. Use the key and go through the door, Psycho Sandy Cooper!
Yes, that would be an option, except Psycho-Sandy Cooper diligently locked each and every child safety lock from the inside before exiting out the electric garage door. That’s normally a good thing.
Not this time. We were completely locked out. Of our house. At 11 pm on a Sunday night. With 3 tired kids. After a full weekend out of town.
So, we ventured into the very dark and quiet town, hoping maybe to find a vacant hotel room, hospital bed, covered bridge. And that’s when we saw it. LIGHT! We found the 20% of town with electricity, and glory be to God, it happened to be the neighborhood where our good friends Kevin and Cindy Rose live.
We pulled onto their street (at 11 pm) to verify the presence of electricity. Yes, yes…we saw lights at the Rose’s house (at 11 pm). And here’s how slick we are: We pulled into their driveway and called them from the cell phone, you know, to give them a little heads up.
Jon: What are you guys doing?
Kevin: Watching the Golf Channel. I think Cindy is cleaning closets. (Question: Who cleans closets at 11 pm on a Sunday night? But more importantly, who actually watches the Golf Channel?)
Kevin: Yeah…. OK then. It was great talking with you….
Jon: Well, yeah, um…funny thing. We are locked out of our house and we were wondering if we could maybe stay with you guys tonight.
Kevin: Um, yeah. Of course. Come on over!
Jon: Great. We’re in your driveway.
Smooth, I know. Even smoother when we piled out of the car with luggage and a port-a-crib, as if we’ve been planning this home-invasion for weeks.
The Rose family greeted us warmly into their electricity-filled home. They scurried to set up a guest bedroom. They hugged our kids and tucked us in. They may have even kissed us goodnight. I’m not sure. But there were major warm-fuzzies going on, I know that much.
I know they don’t think much about what they did that night. If you ask them about it, they will seriously downplay their generocity, because they are just great like that. But honestly, but their hospitality blew us away.
Even though we felt very much like an intrusion, they seemed genuinely happy we were there and genuinely disappointed when we left—four days later, when we finally broke into our own home! And that was four days of ALL COOPERS ALL THE TIME, because schools were cancelled and one of our cars was locked in our garage (translation: I couldn’t go anywhere because Jon took our one and only available car to work.)
Honestly, I can think of only a handful of times in my life when I felt as loved as I did that week. Over those four days, our friendship with the Roses crossed over from “church friends” to “church FAMILY.”
Which is a particularly big deal to me. See, I’ve always been a little jealous of people who live near family. People who shop with their sisters or drop the kids off at the grandparents for the night or have a giant family dinners together after church. Jon and I moved away from family 14 years ago, so we don’t get that. I miss that. I’ve always assumed I would never have anything close to that.
There have been many times over the last 14 years I’ve complained to God and others that I don’t have family nearby. I often wondered what we are missing by moving so far away from our parents and siblings.
But when the Roses welcomed us into their home, I learned a valuable lesson about the power of community: True hospitality is a very spiritual thing. It has the power to break the stronghold of loneliness and isolation. It cuts through the deception of the Enemy, which says, “You don’t fit in. You don’t have anyone here who REALLY cares about you.”
Though I love and miss my biological family very much, I am never really without Family when I am plugged into an authentic community of believers.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. ( Peter 4:8-10)
Good post Sandy! Loved the story, and I agree with you about needing our church family. We need them so much!….especially if crisis hits. I love our church family, and don't know what we'd do without them. This is a good reminder for me to invest more time with my friends.
Connie ~ Winnipeg
What a great story! Thanks for sharing it, Sandy.
Shhhhh. Don't tell, but I watch the Golf Channel sometimes. Will you still be my friend?
Came across your blog and realy enjoyed what you had to say. Isn't it so true..that when we as beleivers aer plugged in and refreshed by the love of other believers life's burden seems lifted somewhat. And the most beautiful part is it is a tangible reminder why God calls us to love. It makes us feel safe,secure,and at home in this foreign land.
great post. llj
I loved reading that story. A church friend and I were talking yesterday about the lack of warmth/love/
connectedness in our church. Maybe we need a hurricane. Not really. But lovely that you and your friends were able to become closer through hardship.
Amazing story! It is such a great reminder that Jesus calls us to be hospitable.
This is an amazing story. Thank you for sharing. I remembered when I faced similar difficulties in life. My loved ones – family, friends, & church has been really helpful. And that is right, no one will never feel alone when one is plugged into an authentic community of believers.
Thanks, Venice. There’s nothing like the body of Christ.