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June 23, 2008

Pride for IOWA

Iowa The news coverage came on CNN as a “Severe Weather” update. We saw that Iowa City was flooding. It was still raining. We called my extended family for the crisis-check. You know, the call that says: “I’m concerned, are you OK?” Everyone was “fine” and we wished them well, offered them to come to stay with us in Chicago if need be, and said we would help in anyway we could.

Iowa2 It wasn’t until this weekend, when talking to my Iowa born-and-raised cousin, that my heart filled with sadness and pride for the entire state. “Susie lost her whole house, her son’s room is floating…we finished grabbing boards and sand bags and she said: ‘Let’s go help Tim, he got it bad’”. Seriously? My cousin explained his shock that she didn’t consider her own desperate situation “bad”. He was calling to help raise money for his brother who had lost EVERYTHING. “What do you mean everything, Anthony? Furniture? Basement?” I asked. “Everything, as in he was out of town, and now has NOTHING.” He clarified. Yikes.

My Iowan family came by way of re-marriage. My adolescent ignorance created embarrassment toward the stark contrast of its grass-roots, blue-collar, hard-working farmer mentality and my international silver-spoon upbringing. People had children young, family was HUGE, and everyone thought “Boarding School” was some cross between military discipline and rehab. Slowly, after building true relationships with my new family, I saw them for what they were: Honest-to-goodness people who make do with what they have, work hard and celebrate the riches of community.

My cousin and I talked on the phone and he shared stories of people getting out of bed to come out and help. All-day baking and cooking to bring neighbors food. How strangers would share tools and clothes. He described the mentality and the actual words leaving people’s mouths: “Well, we’re just grateful to be here, we got out OK. It could be worse.” His neighbor refused to go stand in line at one of the RED CROSS stations because he said: “There are people out there that got it worse…” as he stood on a pile of soggy sofa pillows and was facing 3 feet of water in his first floor.

Farmers are bracing for major crop losses. Entire towns are trying to pick up the pieces. The university of Iowa has set up a University of IOWA FLOOD FUND to raise money to rebuild. I know there are so many other angles to discuss with this story. We could compare tragedies, or discuss government aid or global climate crisis, and all of them would be valid. But today, I am just writing in awe of a place I once cringed to say I lived.

I am proud that the people I love and have come to understand are uniting and showing the rest of the world what community values and small town-Midwestern mentality means. Work ethic, survival and support for each other. We call could learn a little from such things. To help visit: SAVE IOWA .

Original post for Chicago Moms Blog. To read more of Laila, visit her personal (and goofy) site at Lulu Notewordy

Photo Credit: Christopher Maag

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