Saturday Sessions: Courtney Marie Andrews performs "Kindness of Strangers"
The Kindness of Strangers: Open House
When the tornado hit, Daphne, her husband, Rob, and four of their five children were driving in their car. As tornado sirens blared, the Clarks pulled into a supermarket lot and ran through pounding wind and rain into the store. "Shopping carts were flying all around the parking lot," Daphne says.
When it was over, the Clarks made the 10-mile drive home to Carl Junction. "People were walking in the street with blood running down their faces," says Daphne. A woman lay dead beside a smashed truck. Dazed people stood amid mangled houses and downed trees. "I felt lucky to be alive," she says. Although Rob had lost his job as a utility supervisor days earlier (he's since found work) and she'd been unable to stay at her factory job due to lung disease, Daphne realized during that drive home how blessed they were.
The next morning, spurred by the close call, Daphne posted messages on Craigslist and Facebook inviting over anyone who needed a place to stay. She made the same offer on three radio stations. "I just felt that I should do what I could to help," she says.
The following day, Sue Johnston called—the roof had been ripped from her apartment. Daphne invited her to move in. Next to contact her were Pam and David Tartar, whose house was destroyed. The two moved into the Clarks' garage-turned-bedroom.
The requests kept coming, a few from down-on-their-luck people who hadn't been affected by the tornado, like Debbie and Ron Leslie, who'd been living paycheck to paycheck and were days away from becoming homeless due to job loss. "Daphne said, 'You're in the same boat as everyone else. Come on over,'" says Debbie. To make room, Daphne's husband and three of their sons, ages 15, 11 and 9, gave up their beds and slept in a tent in the backyard.
Within weeks, Daphne had taken in 14 people. Some stayed for a month, most for three months. "We were one big family," says Daphne, and that's how she treated them, even though it meant using her own family's much-needed savings to pay for extra food. One night, when Elizabeth and Kevin said that they'd planned to be married by a justice of the peace to save cash, Daphne stepped in. "She gave me the wedding of my dreams, with a cake and flowers," Elizabeth says. "She even let me wear her wedding dress! I know now that good people are out there."
But Daphne, who is humble by nature, brushes aside any praise. "God was looking after my family that terrible night of the tornado," she says. "I just wanted to return the favor."
BETH LEVINEis a writer in Stamford, CT. MARTI ATTOUN is a writer in Joplin, MO.
Video: Courtney Marie Andrews - Kindness of Strangers (Official Music Video)
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