Joplin Is More Than A Town, It’s A Family

I don’t even know where to start….

I probably should explain that Joplin is one of my hometowns.  It has been 13 years since I moved away but I still consider it my childhood home since I spent the majority of my childhood there (yes, this avid Jayhawker lived in Missouri for several years).  I moved there right before I turned 8 years old after living in two towns and lived there for about 7 years.

Oftentimes, people with hearing loss have difficulties communicating with hearing peers which can make it difficult to make friends.  Joplin is the reason why I chose to be a part of the hearing world.  Joplin is also the reason why I value friendships so much.

When I first moved to Joplin I was the new kid on the block but I will never forget how welcoming my classmates were.  By the end of 3rd grade a few of them could sign fluently enough that they would occasionally interpret for me when an interpreter was not present and they would interpret at their churches for deaf adults.  By the time we were in middle school they were “employed” by the local YMCA to interpret my gymnastics classes.  They always went above and beyond to make me feel included.

Joplin is a town of about 50,000 and most people who live there grew up there, their parents grew up there, and their grandparents grew up there.  Even though most of my relatives were within a few hours drive from Joplin I saw my friends’ relatives more than I saw mine.  They came to award programs, school shows, and sport events.  It wasn’t uncommon for a friend’s aunt to live next door or a friend’s grandparents to live across the street from them.

Even though it was a struggle going through the school system due to the system not having experience with a deaf student, my friends and classmates always had my back.  They would stand up for me even if it meant getting into trouble with teachers.

Joplin is more than a town, it’s a family.

Joplin also taught me the importance of friends and family versus material things.  People didn’t care what I wore, what kind of house I lived in, or where my parents worked.  Joplin has been one of the few communities I’ve lived in where I felt like if something happened they would be there for me.  Which is what makes it so hard being 2.5 hours away from Joplin and not being able to help out (they’re turning away volunteers since they have too many at this time).

I’m so thankful all my close friends and their families are okay.  I was worried for a few hours but thanks to Facebook I found out they were okay.  There are still a couple of classmates I haven’t heard anything about yet.  Most of my friends have lost their homes.  I have seen pictures of their homes and it’s amazing they survived.

At least a third of Joplin has been wiped out.  The third that the tornado hit is where I basically grew up at.  I’m pretty sure my old neighborhood is mostly gone.  My old house was 0.5 miles from the hospital that was hit.  There used to be a gas station across the street that I used to ride my bike to.  There also used to be a park and swimming pool nearby the hospital where I took swimming lessons at and walked to in the summer once I was old enough.  When looking at pictures online,there’s no sign that there was even a gas station, a pool, or a park.

I visited a few friends in Joplin earlier this year and got there early enough to drive around a little bit.  Boy, did that bring back some memories I forgot I had.  Now it almost feels like those memories are gone.

The neighborhoods I used to hang out in after school with friends….

My friend’s houses where I spent many hours playing and having slumber parties….

My old house….

The CiCis where I felt so grown up when I got to walk there with a friend in 4th grade by ourselves….

It just breaks my heart to see all this devastation and knowing that so many people no longer have a home.  I’m so thankful my close friends are okay.

They’ve always been more than just friends.  All I want to do is hug them, give them food, and a place to sleep.

Joplin as I knew it is unrecognizable.  I know that the people of Joplin will pull together and will help each other out.

Joplin was hit by a severe thunderstorm yesterday and may end up having potential tornado producing weather today.  Many people are still missing.  Please keep Joplin in your thoughts, the people of Joplin can use all the help they can get for many months to come.

This is a somber reminder to not take people you care about for granted, to not go to bed angry, to let go of the past, and to live in the moment.

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