Day 2 of our Christmas Countdown was quite busy! Earlier in the week, we had received an email from the leadership in our ward (church congregation) that volunteers were need to help Hurricane Sandy victims in Rockaway, NY with clean-up this weekend. As it was a day-long commitment and I am still nursing baby Ray, I knew I would not be able to participate, so I started looking for ways to help from home.
On Thursday night, I was talking to one of my friends and mentioned that I would be willing to watch kids on Sunday if a husband and wife wanted to go down. She was excited about that possibility and we decided that I would take her 3 daughters for the day (their 8 year old son is allergic to our cat, so he went to another friend's house).
Jared had been considering going, but when he found out that I would be taking care of 6 kids ages 6 and under, he opted to stay home and help, which also allowed him to cover at church for the youth leaders who were volunteering (he is the Young Men's President in our ward currently, a youth leadership calling). I was thankful for his help, especially preparing meals and doing dishes while I managed the chaos!
Saturday evening we sat down with Nathan and Hannah and explained who was coming and why. We reminded them about the big storm that took our power out, and told them that some people's homes were "broken" in the storm, and that their friends were coming to stay for the day so that their parents could go help fix the broken homes.
|msn.com picture of a home in the Rockaway area of Queens, NY|
It was an exhausting but fun day. The girls arrived at 5:30 AM in cheerful spirits, considering the early hour. I was glad that I had babysat them in our home before, so they were comfortable and not scared by new surroundings. I read books to them for awhile, but when our kids woke up around 6:30, things were in full swing!
Jared had church meetings at 8:30 AM, so it was up to me to get everyone ready for church. Dressing 6 kids plus myself in Sunday clothes while packing snacks and other necessities was a daunting task, but we managed just fine and were ready to load up by the time Jared returned just before 10 to help drive the kids to church. Of course once we got to church (a little late), there were plenty of people to help entertain kids during sacrament meeting (the main worship service), then get the kids off to their Sunday School classes and the nursery.
The rest of the day was quite fun with only a few chaotic moments. Why is it that dirty diapers, squabbles over toys, and cats throwing up all tend to happen just when you're trying to prep dinner?!
For our Christmas Countdown activity we chose something simple: we watched the VeggieTales video St Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving. I like this video because it relates Santa Claus to helping and giving to others without expecting anything in return. The kids loved the fun songs and silly veggie humor, as always.
Here is a picture of Nathan and Hannah along with two of the girls (ages 6 and 3) watching the video and munching on the kettle corn that we purchased at the Christmas tree farm the day before. Ray and our youngest guest were napping, and I had spread blankets and pillows out for the four older kids to help encourage them to rest.
Our friends returned for their kids around 8 PM, and it was wonderful to hear their stories of the people they were able to serve. The devastation that is still prevalent in that area is horrific. They told us that as people clean out their homes, they pile the rubble on the streets, where it is removed daily, but still there are just piles of rubble everywhere. Rockaway is a thin strip of land where the water came up on both sides and met in the middle. One person said that in order to comprehend what these people are dealing with, you would need to close up your house and fill it with 4 feet of water, then go without power or electricity for weeks.
There were over 200 volunteers, organized into teams of 10, that worked up and down the streets helping anyone who needed them. In particular, our friends spent much of their time tearing out sheet rock and everything else in a basement that needed to be gutted.
We are thankful we were able to assist others to be able to go down and help, but I wish there was more we could do! I am thankful to be a part of a Church that is so organized and active in humanitarian efforts all over the globe.
Check back later to find out to read about Day 3, or read about Day 1 here. Here's an explanation of our Christmas Countdown.
Do you volunteer? I would like to look for ways to get more involved in the community, but it's hard to find things I can do with my young children, does anyone have good ideas?