Anyone Can Serve

Jayne Claire Gillespie

When a tornado struck Hattiesburg, MS, 12-year-old Haylie wanted to serve. So she decided to help the helpers.

Haylie is a 12-year-old at Oak Grove Upper Elementary in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. She is also my niece. I watched her and her two brothers get yanked back and forth in the middle of a rough divorce, and I feared the worst when she no longer wanted to play sports or be active and social in school. Her attitude sometimes easily sways in the negative direction and anger tends to be directed toward her siblings. I was losing faith. As the “fun aunt,” I know she held myself in high accord, but I was losing her.

I had to take a day off from Operation Iron Bird. While I was driving early morning, she texted me from school asking, “Before y’all leave, can I maybe come over and help with some of the clean up?” This request was a complete surprise. It broke my heart to tell her, “I’m so sorry, we can’t send someone your age into the disaster zone. I’d love for you to see the impact and help out in some way.”

We started brainstorming how she could be useful and I told her, “You just have to take one thing you’re really good at and give that service back to these people.” Our first thought was her super baking talent and decorating cookies. Her father, a cable technician has been working all week to restore cable service to the area, so he didn’t have time to assist. Haylie showed her dad $15 from her wallet and said, “I want to spend this to help Team Rubicon and JC (my nickname).”

Haylie (second in from the right), 12, donated water and Gatorade for members of Team Rubicon deployed to Hattiesburg, MS. Her aunt Jayne (center) was among those deployed.

It didn’t take him long to see the spark, as she has been thinking of all the ways that she could help with the effort, and her earnings from good grades could allow that to happen. Her dad took her to the grocery store the next day and handed her an additional amount of money where she was able to buy six cases of water and six cases of Gatorade to deliver to the FOB.

One little action put into one little text restored my faith. I told her dad, “She doesn’t have to run into disaster zones to serve others. It starts with an eagerness to serve, and that means everything to someone.”

Learn how you can support those affected by disasters by joining the ranks of TR Nation.

Read More Stories