This past Saturday a rag-tag group of volunteers from my neighborhood gathered to help our neighbors two doors down who were devastated by the Nashville flood. They have been trapped in their back bedroom (the only room that was elevated in the entire house) for the past 14 days. While FEMA is still “evaluating,” this group led by neighbors J.D. & Brittney decided two weeks was long enough for our friends to be holed up in a 12′ x 12′ cubicle.
As introductions were exchanged, familiar faces became first names, and neighbors became co-workers. Volunteers. Everyone happily giving up their free Saturday to assist a neighbor in need. As we laughed and joked and worked our butts off (many of us do not regularly engage in manual labor), we realized the joys of volunteerism.
We somehow understood why we were Tennesseans. Some born here, some transplanted, but all Tennesseans. Volunteers. Citizens of the Volunteer State. And even though we had nothing to do with the origin of the state slogan, for a short while, we became the essence of it.
The older couple who until now had lived incognito among us, but who suffered the most in our community from the flood, constantly showered thanks on us, fed us, worked alongside us, suddenly became fellows. Comrades. Dare I say, neighbors in the truest sense of the word.
As I finished my routine run yesterday, and waved (a different wave somehow – not just sore, but different) at several of the fellow volunteers, uh, I mean neighbors, working around their respective houses, it dawned on me that volunteer means far more than a state slogan.
It means friend.