May 10, 2010

Our group spent Saturday and Sunday night in Nashville at the First Baptist Church on Broadway in downtown Nashville.  It is the perfect location to access the Nashville nightlife.  But the story of Nashville starts a week before we got there.

All week we’d been hearing about the flooding in Tennessee.  The deaths, the destruction, the roads.  Our parents wallowed and worried.  Every time we tried to call them we received sermons about floods.  But now we were actually in Nashville, and what did we see?  Surprisingly little, actually.

A flood is a funny thing.  It does an impressive amount of damage, but a week after the “century flood” of Nashville, the city outwardly looked as if it were business as usual.  The bars on Broadway were open.  The businesses were open.  People were out.  But of course its the things you DON’T see that are the real problem.  Houses that looked fine on the outside were completely gutted within.  One of the two water purification plants was out of commission.  Streets were closed due to flood damage.

On Sunday morning Lauren, Josh, Roshan and I went to the morning service at the First Baptist Church, where we happened to be staying.  It reminded me of going to Grace Church in Edina as a child.  Large choirs with shiny robes; suits everywhere.  The pastor sermoned, not surprisingly, about the flood and that bad things still happen to Christian people.  All good, all good.  At the end of the service they got up and talked about people volunteering to help those affected by the flood.

I knew that one was coming, but my soul was conflicted.  I wanted nothing more than just a relaxing day off in Nashville.  Hang out somewhere, grab some coffee and internet, take in the new Ironman movie.  Of course that darned Holy Spirit was there saying, “You can’t do it.  It’s just wrong.  How can you claim to be all about Global Health and wanting to make a difference in people’s lives if you’re not even willing to give up an afternoon to help people deal with a disaster that you just rode your fancy bike into?”

The thing about the Holy Spirit, is it’s always right.  Even when you don’t want it to.  So the choice is yours: listen and obey, or ignore.  I might have been tempted to just cower away after the service, but luckily Roshan manned up and went to get more information about volunteering.So that’s how I ended up spending the afternoon of my day off demo-ing a man’s basement.

We met up with some people from the Baptist church, who took the four of us plus Jody and Jeff to two houses.  The first was a member of the church who’s basement had been flooded.  People had been by earlier to removed the damaged stuff, which was sitting in a pile in his backyard.  He wanted help moving the pile into the large dumpster that he had.

Cleaning up the mess

Sledge hammer vs. old dresser

The second place was a house where a man was living by himself.  He was not a member of the church, but the church had gotten word that this man had had no help cleaning his house out.  He had also had water up to the ceiling tiles in his basement.  When we got there, he was working alone cleaning out his place.  We started by ripping down the last of the ceiling tiles, and tearing out the insulation.  Then we started cleaning up the dirt and debris that was still on the ground.  We then moved his washer and drier out of the house (the washer was filled to the brim with water).  After we got the basement looking nice and clean, it dawned on us that all his drywall had gone bad.  In a complete reversal of the job we had just performed, we started punching and kicking wet drywall and pulling it down.  Then grabbing the wall insulation and pulling that out too.  After that was complete, we started shoveling the gypsum into buckets and through a basement window onto a tarp.  The gypsum (which is also used in toothpaste) started to get all over the floors, and it was as slippery as an ice rink.  Luckily, growing up in Minnesota gave me mad skills on slippery surfaces.

Cleaning with Jody and Roshan

Shoveling old dry wall

The volunteers with the home owner

It’s not every day that we can play the good Samaritan, but I bet its more often than we think.  Most of the time, I act like the Rabbi or the Levite, pretending to be too busy to help those in need.  But today we stopped in Nashville, and were able to help a couple families get their lives back on track.  I don’t think it was too much to ask, and it certainly was not too much to give.

Leitchfield to New Albany by embricate at Garmin Connect – Details.


2 Responses to “Nashville”

  1. Matt said


    We are all very proud of you not only for how far you have travelled, but how giving you are. I am sure everyone that donated to your good cause would be very happy to know that, indirectly, they supported the clean-up efforts in Nashville. I am very impressed by your maturity on this ride and not forgetting the overall purpose of the ride is not to make it across America, but to educate people on world health issues and do good for people in need. I am very proud of you.

  2. Mary Nyberg said

    When I knew you would be going through Nashville after their monumental flood, in spite of my concerns about biking into the flood waters etc, I was hoping that the Ride for World Health team would spend their day off helping the flood victims. I am so proud of you and your team members that truly lived your Global Health mission by sacrificing your precious day off and assisting in the clean up for some Nashville families. Your heart for the bike ride mission is truly in the right place. That same heart will make you a very good caring and compassionate doctor.
    Love, MOM

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