The situation has been so chaotic that it took a while for a systematic infrastructure for volunteer help and donations to emerge. Some went through the designated recovery channels, but many groups, either established church based organizations, or impromptu loose-knit associations, just showed up and handed out chain sawing and emergency supplies like it was Christmas. It is all good. We can use all the help we can get.
But there is a prevailing attitude of, "Was your home destroyed by the tornado? Did you sustain direct property damage from the tornado? Then we will help you."
Should property damage be the defining categorization by which charity is granted? This is a tragic and powerful opportunity to address the needs of all the tornado survivors, not just those whose property was destroyed, but those who are also suffering, indeed, even those who are long-suffering. One might bear in mind that many citizens of Joplin have not had electricity, water, or other essential services for many months, due to non-payment. Would helping them be less worthy of your generosity?
Every single individual in the Joplin area is a survivor and a victim of this disaster. Let those who are generously donating their time, efforts, and resources to bringing aid here keep in mind that, as impressive as the physical destruction is, the psychological damage to each person here is far worse, and far more important.
I entreat you to let someone just talk to you. You say you want to volunteer, and you cannot get an assignment? Just go anywhere disaster services are being offered, sit quietly next to a person, and let them talk. You can do no better service, even with a giant bulldozer.
We are all traumatized to a greater or lesser degree by this. We all handle the stress is different ways. For one person, losing the house and the car may be seen as a matter of simply replacing them. For another, a small keepsake lost, or a cat's paw injured, may be devastating. It's good if we try to remember not to press everything into the mold of our own value systems.
This tragedy is not about the number of destroyed buildings or dollars needed to restore the city. It is not even about the city of Joplin, or Duquesne. It is about the people: those who died, and those who are still living. And you can only help the living. So please click your heels together and say repeat that magic word: empathy, empathy, empathy.