My friend Joshua Brown shot this footage of the Sandy relief effort yesterday in the Rockaways here in NYC. In case you weren’t aware, Mormons have played a very active role in the relief effort; for instance, the local missionaries have worked tireless every day since Sandy hit. Their contribution has been noticed. A co-worker of mine organized a non-Mormon volunteer team last week, and here’s what she had to say:
“Yellow vests were one of the first things I saw at the scene in Rockaway Beach. A few dozen of them. I deployed with a group of colleagues, including military veterans, to help the residents and I was so happy to be joined by missionaries from the Church of Latter Day Saints in human chains loading and unloading donations. They are always present wherever humanity needs the most help–I have seen this my whole life.”
Out of the tragedy of the storm, the church is doing a marvelous work. Mormons from all over the Northeast have come to put on yellow vests and clean out flooded basements. I asked Josh about the impetus for gathering the footage, and his feelings yesterday as he was gathering it, and here’s what he had to say:
I guess its this ongoing theme in my mind that people just don’t really understand Mormon culture. I view it as my responsibility as an “insider” to tell stories that others don’t really have access to, or without context, don’t really understand. I also chose to shoot on Sunday instead of Saturday because I thought it was a great example of “pure religion.” I thought it was a better visual and interview to ask people how it felt to be serving instead of sitting in church.
As I walked around I was just filled with so much pride for the church. As a sometimes “non traditional” Mormon with a lot of nonmember friends and family, people are constantly asking me why I am a Mormon. It usually boils down to something along the lines of “it makes me strive to be a better person, and it gives me opportunities to serve.” It’s pretty simple, but that is religion to me. And this service I was witnessing was a pure manifestation of it. There was nothing more than love as a motive. People weren’t dressed up trying to impress anyone, and we weren’t trying to impose any beliefs on anyone, it was just pure love for those who needed it.
There are very few moments in my life I would consider my testimony anchors. This was one of them. As I walked around and saw so many friends (men, women, and children) doing such backbreaking work with smiles on their faces, it made me realize how much I love this community of people. I don’t always line up with all of them politically, or culturally, but at key moments in my life, I have been able to find support. I have never needed the kind of support that I witnessed this weekend, but I know that if I needed it, my friends, and total strangers, would be there in a second.
I think one thing I am really excited about is that we as a community are looking outside ourselves. We are sharing our stories online, looking for service outside our own walls, and looking to build genuine friendships. I also think its great that the church is really starting to focus on the clean-up process rather than donation of hard goods. The donations are pretty easy to find, but it’s harder to find a pack of people willing to come in and rip out wet carpet and drywall.
I wanted the film to speak to both members of the church and nonmembers. I tried to avoid focusing too much on the damage or focusing too much on patting ourselves on the back. In general the point was to encourage and motivate as many people as possible to actually come down and serve.
To that end, watch the video above, try not to cry, and if you can find a way to help, please do so. This video footage is only a day old–there’s clearly a lot more cleanup to be done before the rebuilding can begin.