Lending a hand

Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Photos by Jenna Keene

Mother Nature has been flexing her muscles and testing our nerves.

Tornadoes, floods, drought in Texas, end-of-July heat the first week of June. It's enough to make you wonder if our carbon-heavy, arrogant attempts to control the world around us have wrought us this.

You can't fool Mother Nature.

You can't control her either.

What we can do is lend a hand.

One of the most inspiring, thoughtful and giving people I know is half my age. In this time of troubles, she's inspiring me again.

My niece, Jenna Keene, returned to Omaha this weekend after spending time with an Omaha church group helping with the clean up in Joplin, Mo. A December, 2010 graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, Jenna had moved to Omaha only a week before, eager to start her job hunt in the big city.

She postponed that quest when she heard of the group headed south to help.

She's always been that way.

When no one stepped up to organize a mission trip for our church youth, she got the plans going. She set up a trip to a camp for the blind in Kentucky, made arrangements, planned the driving down to mileage reports, and listings of area restaurants and hotels at appropriate stops and ensured the youth had an amazing spiritual experience. She was just 21.

In a trip to the border town of Agua Prieta, Mexico, she worked with others to build small, sturdy homes. The locals marveled at the work ethic of the young American.

She may look like a sweet, blond pushover. She's anything but.

My sister, Kris Keene, and her husband Dave, of rural Hartley, have been kind enough to share Jenna with us. They allow husband Joel and I to call her our "substitute daughter" since we don't have a girl in our home. Her caring influence and big sister advice has been good for Drew. Her example of giving is priceless.

In Joplin, her group worked on cleaning up and repairing a one-car garage attached to a mobile home (well, it had been attached, but the home was gone). A family of six planed to make the garage its home, without electricity or running water.

It's easy to write a check, say "there but for the grace of God," but giving of your time, your talents, your spirit, can be worth so much more.

Today, as our eyes go west, toward the swollen Missouri River, we send out our prayers for those battling the flood. If you want to get out there and get dirty, the

Siouxland Flooding Facebook Group has up-to-the minute details on volunteer opportunities. They can use all the help they can get.

And, if you're not up to that? They can always use your prayers as well.

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