I am so thankful for having incredible students who get the concept that Martial Artists are to be awesome human beings first-before anything else! Stephen Keim and I went down to meet Tiger Rock students and instructors in Tuscaloosa, Alabama from across the country, and we banded together in the name of community! The experience that we gained from the excursion was second-to-none. We learned a great deal about ourselves and the misfortune that sometimes befalls God's creatures.
The journey took 10 hours to get to Tuscaloosa and the Northport Tiger Rock academy. We got in at 10 pm Central Time and slept on the floor of the Northport academy for two nights. We worked in the Collection/distribution Center for the Red Cross where we organized all the incoming donations, sorted food, loaded/unloaded trucks, etc.
We heard stories of those who had held on to their commodes or sought shelter in their closets to come out to nothing but that very room left standing as the exception. We heard of a man whose clothes were ripped from his body by the high winds...yet who survived because of his indomitable will not to let go of his grip. We heard the good and the bad. For every misfortune, there were also blessings. Sometimes, you had to look through the smoke. For instance, one of the local elementary schools was utterly and completely destroyed. Fortunately, Tuscaloosa County had closed the schools that day in preparation for the expected storm. This was nothing but a good call. Good stories do exist amidst the destruction and despair. One woman already received her check from the insurance company and has moved into a new home...And though you can find these kind of stories to give you optimism, the realization is that people are hurting. They have gotten knocked down. It is their resolve, however, that will bring them back to their feet and the helping hands of those across the country who are offering their assistance-people like Americorps who just do admirable things every single day on their 9 month tours.
We went through areas like Alberta City that were completely flattened, and the pictures and videos do not do any justice to what the area really looks like. I had not seen anything like it in my life. I do want to thank Tiger Rock for organizing this day and the people who came out in support of one of our Grand Master's who lost his building that housed his school, but not the school itself. People and the relationships are what comprise a school. Tuscaloosa and the Bailey team have a resolve unlike any that I have ever seen. They will pick the pieces back up. As far as Grandmaster Bailey goes, I have seen few as him that have such steadfast optimism in the darkness of such despair. GM Bailey took us out to lunch and even paid for our meals. Who was helping who? I thought. I believed that I was going to help him, when in fact, I was meant to attend this event to learn from someone the lesson of grace under fire, tragedy and adversity. It is like We teach our students, "There are 3 kinds of people in this world: Those that make things happen, watch things happen or those that don't know what happened." In this situation, the Tuscaloosa community along with its leadership must choose to make things happen. It is easy for someone to think "Why Me?"
As far as our Johnson's Tiger Rock students and families are concerned, Thank You! We donated over $1,000 in cash and an entire van load of supplies for the effort. At the end of the day, what anyone does is just one person chipping in. It is the collective group that will triumph and succeed to reach a big goal. Yes, small things really add up.I want to tell you all that your donations and hard work really did make a difference.?