On April 16, 2011, Sanford NC, my city, was struck by an EF3 tornado.
For weeks after that day, my family and I didn't have much family time except for a quick meal together at the soup kitchen I helped run or small talk as we sat together in the back of a fellowship hall putting together hygiene kits to distribute to workers and displaced families.
Thanks to a leap day, April 16 is today. However, for me, it was yesterday. 365 days from The Tornado that destroyed a neighborhood one mile from my house, knocked out our power for three days, and sent us on a month-long journey toward giving people a hot meal, whether they had a roof over their heads or not. That tornado also sent me and a few others on a road trip to deliver relief supplies to other tornado-stricken states.
A year ago, I didn't know that my heart could hold so many people inside it. As someone who doesn't hug, I didn't know that I could open my arms to a stranger as family and comfort someone who really just needed a good cry.
I suppose I just didn't know who I was inside until it didn't matter who I was outside. My town, my people, needed hands willing to work and hearts the refused to quit. I gave that, alongside other people who could've been anybody. Hands and hearts.
And so yesterday, a year later, I wanted to show my gratitude for that experience by being two hands and one heart again. This time, rather than giving them to my community, I kept them for my family -- the three people who made it possible for me to pitch in this time last year.
We took the kids strawberry picking at a farm that was nearly destroyed by the tornado last year. We took a picnic blanket to the park and I lavished 100 percent of my attention on the three people who make my world go 'round.
Then we came home and made a delicious dinner that included something special for each of us. We invited a special friend who I met during the relief effort last year to share it with us, and during the meal we talked about all the things we're grateful for.
It was quiet and rich and blue skied and beautiful. When so much of my time -- the family's time -- is focused on others, it felt right to spend that time focused on ourselves.
A year later, I am changed but the same. More, I am so unbelievably thankful that I'm here and that they're here and that we are able to spend this day together.
My heart goes out to the families who no longer have that luxury or who woke up yesterday morning to the kind of random destruction only a tornado can bring.
May they have a gorgeous and humble one year later.