Light Notes

Richland church helps rebuild Midwest boy's book collection

It’s difficult to put a face on disaster -- hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes and the wake of misery they can leave in their path.

The number of people affected and the magnitude of the aftermath are difficult to comprehend — or to sometimes feel compassion.

The flooding in Minot, N.D. this past June is a story that has mostly dropped from the headlines. It’s been a summer filled with enough malevolence from nature to keep any newspaper or television reporter focused elsewhere.

Nevertheless, for the folks in this small town of almost 41,000 there are quite a few who are, metaphorically, still walking through deep waters more than 2 months later.

One is 11-year old Duncan, a boy I learned about via a friend’s Facebook post.

Life changed for this child June 21 when he and his family fled from their home on the banks of the Souris River. Days of lazy warm afternoons throwing a fishing line or reading a good book on their expansive green lawn were left behind.

When Duncan returned 28 days later, memories were all he had left.

The receding water stood where he once read along the river’s edge. Inside the family home, thick with mud and white mold, his collection of childhood books — carefully placed on the shelves in his second-floor bedroom — were ruined. Favorite stories now are blurred into a mass of distorted words, their hard covers crumbling.

For some kids, losing a personal library wouldn’t be particularly distressing, but for Duncan it was his history and his identity. Destroyed were the books sent from grandparents on their travels, his mother’s childhood books, his first Bible and all the selections he’d worked to buy with his weekly allowance.

Duncan has spent nearly every evening listening to or reading a book. He even took pleasure in sharing his assortment of favorites with classmates, starting as early as kindergarten. For the past four years, he has received the academic achievement Top Reader Award, a sure sign this young boy is in love with books.

It’s difficult to lose something you love. It brings sorrow, often accompanied by anger — and that’s understandable.

His earthly possessions “washed away” and now living shoulder-to-shoulder with his family in a borrowed RV, Duncan has wondered about God’s love and what happened to it.

But God’s loving arms have reached from Washington state to North Dakota to touch this little boy’s life with kindness — and the beginnings of a new library. Duncan’s Aunt Betty, her Facebook friends and her friends at Cathedral of Joy in Richland have sent gift cards and books.

All of the compassion has put a smile back on Duncan’s face.