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Learning Lessons of Gratitude and Dignity

three students
L-R: Pat Milder, Andy Pieczynski and Fr. Sabu Georgeall bring hope and goodwill to the area.

March 2012

At least 45 separate tornadoes swept across the Midwest and the South, March 2-3. One tornado stayed on the ground for 95 miles as it tore through towns in Kentucky and West Virginia, and many left miles-long paths of destruction. The news was full of heartbreak.

Meanwhile at St. Ambrose, planning for this year's trip to Appalachian Kentucky went on as usual. Since 1987, Ambrosians have used spring break to serve at an alternative high school in David, Ky. The relationship with "The David School" is so well established, that St. Ambrose is an officially designated partner, along with such schools as Yale, Virginia Tech and the University of Notre Dame.

So the Ambrose group left campus, aware of the devastating tornadoes that had touched down earlier in the month, but not quite realizing what it would be like to come face-to-face with the reality of such destruction.

"The trees on the mountains have been snapped and many people have lost almost everything," said campus ministry's Stella O'Rourke in an email report. "We've been splitting our time between The David School and Salyersville, a town that got hit bad by the tornadoes. Disasters are sadly indiscriminate ... it seems as if those with insurance have cosmetic damage while those without have experienced total devastation."

But amidst the devastation lay lessons of strength, generosity and dignity. "With nothing left the people offered us what little food they had as a 'thank you.' As we left the holler* one day we saw a group of four huddled in prayer. Earlier they had felt forgotten—at their wits end—and then 30 of us showed up from four colleges around the country. We were left with their parting words, 'God is good, even in awful situations.'"

*Holler - A small rising valley region between two hills or mountains; often containing a creek. (Urban Dictionary)

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