Published for Motherhood Matters – (click HERE for the link)

After years of home ownership, our circumstances changed and we have been renting the home in which we now live. This has not been easy for me. In fact, I admit to feeling sorry for myself and even whining on occasion. So it’s been especially exciting to plan furniture placement and decide who gets what bedroom in the home we are currently in the process of purchasing. My husband isn’t quite as enthused about his new honey-do list, but he smiles anyway.

I was thus preoccupied with all things house-related when the Joplin, Mo., tornado struck and reports of absolute devastation started pouring in. In light of our current circumstances, a few accounts really hit home.

NPR reported the reaction of Shawn and Renee Trejo, a Joplin couple whose four-year-old home had just been declared a total loss by an insurance adjustor. “When we got the [house] keys, me and my wife, we went outside and yelled,” said Shawn Trejo. “You know, we had champagne, thought of what things we were going to buy — what kind of furniture, what color we were going to paint the walls. And now, you know, all that’s gone.”

Furniture placement suddenly seemed trivial.

Creed Jones, a Joplin tornado survivor interviewed by Piers Morgan on CNN, told an amazing story. (click HERE for the video link)

Jones and his wife were driving toward their home as the tornado approached. Knowing that their daughters were following about 10 minutes behind in another car, they sent frantic texts to alert them. Unable to exit their car due to the pressure, they hugged and prayed in their shaking car while the tornado raged.

After not hearing from their daughters for an hour and a half, they finally received a text that said, “We’re OK. Can’t go home. It’s gone.” Their daughters’ car had been lifted into the air by the tornado and had exploded from the pressure, with “shards of glass going everywhere.” The girls were able to exit the crushed car only with outside help. The father said, “My wife and I…had a good cry, so grateful that what was important we still had. We didn’t care about anything else.”

What bedrooms the kids end up sleeping in became completely inconsequential.

A grief-stricken woman told Brian Williams at NBC Nightly News of her husband throwing his body on top of hers as a shield from falling debris. In saving her life, he sacrificed his own. (click HERE for the video link)

In an instant, my husband’s entire honey-do list disappeared.

We live in a comfortable home, my kids are here each night for me to tuck into bed, and my husband is still by my side, smiling.

It’s high time I quit whining.

I want my kids to understand that the needs of countless other people in this world greatly exceed our own. And like it or not, the level of empathy my kids are likely to feel hinges primarily on me. I need to think carefully about how I react, what I discuss and share with my children and let them actively participate in planning how we can help. I realize that our contribution will be small, but it will be ours.

My hope is that our efforts will shift our focus towards what’s really important, letting everything else fall into its rightful place on our list of priorities.

There are so many homes and hearts that need rebuilding. In the end, everything else is just stuff.