Odyssey Impact: A Tennessee Town Starts To Rebuild

Odyssey Impact: A Tennessee Town Starts To Rebuild

Gatlinburg resident Jasmine Marie Marple relays a harrowing account of the fire that devastated her town, but she has a hopeful message.
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The first report of fire was on November 23 in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Within a few days, a town was destroyed, 14 people were dead, and more than 175 others were injured.

Jasmine Marple, an Odyssey creator for the Knoxville, Tennessee community and resident of Gatlinburg, watched flames engulf her town as she and other town citizens begged for rain.

“The thing that we wish would go away is the images, what we’ve seen and what happened,” Marple said. “You can’t erase the images. They’ll always be there.”

Marple was at work when she first noticed that the entire sky was a blanket of smoke. She didn’t believe it was serious at first until she saw the fire spreading from the top of the mountain at her friend’s house. That’s when her out-of-town family and friends started calling her, and more importantly, she remembered her dad’s house was in the way of the firestorm.

“I didn’t think it was going to reach the extremes that it did,” Marple said. “That’s the scariest part, you don’t know what’s in store when it comes to fires.”

She and her brother raced to their dad’s house to ensure his safety. Trees were snapping and falling onto houses nearby, including her dad’s. “The tree had fallen at the beginning of his driveway on the mountain and they couldn't get out,” Marple said. “The tree was too big for him to move on his own, so there was no way of removing it quickly.” They all evacuated to safety, and the fire did not reach her dad’s home.

The only other thing Marple had the power to do was to write about her experience and reveal its devastation to her beloved hometown.

“I initially wanted to write a poem about the smoke and the fires, and when it ended up escalating, I just put my thoughts together and submitted it,” Marple said.

Her post quickly gained traction within just a few days, and gained over 6,800 shares after she submitted her unsettling article:

I want to be superwoman, I want to save and help them all. For many days The Book of Revelations has crossed my mind. All of these destructive disasters are incredibly close, leaving behind hurt and mourning. My anxiety is high, I feel like I can't breathe. Everything is happening so fast--damn it, where is the rain?

Marple received dozens of comments from people even outside the town thanking her for sharing the story. The positive feedback was overwhelming.

“I became very emotional because I was grateful that I could reach out to others,” Marple said. “For them to know what was going on was even more empowering.”

Her town is now rebuilding, and Marple plans to write another post detailing the aftermath. Mostly, she says, the town needs money and other resources to help them heal.

“A lot of that money is going toward essentials; there are still people in shelters. Our goal now is to get people into homes so they are back to normalcy. That’s the thing that people overlook,” Marple said.

In a recent Facebook update, Marple thanked all the EMTs, firefighters, police officers and volunteers that have helped keep the people of Gatlinburg safe, and called upon other Gatlinburg citizens to do the same:

Lastly, I want each and every person to know that they are not alone. My sorrow for each and every person that lost everything is unexplainable. My heart aches for you. We, as a community, will come together and help you back to your feet. The images, terror, and uncertainty has been felt as whole. Your families are in our thoughts and prayers. I pray that the nightmares go away and the constant images in your mind dissipates. I pray that you find peace and comfort, and that you never lose hope. We will stand again, together.

“This journey has been extremely hard and emotional,” Marple said, “but my mission now is to fight to help people get back to normal. We can get through this, and we will.”
Cover Image Credit: Wikipedia

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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.
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It won't.

Wait, what?

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. (Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.)

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town. Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open-minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community. I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK. What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives. What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all. Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back; same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others. As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being. My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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Everybody Has Room To Grow In Being Loving And Kind

Is anyone wholly kind? Is anyone wholly loving?
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Everybody loves kindness. Everybody loves love.

But is anyone wholly kind? Is anyone wholly loving?

A deficit I see (and experience myself, seeing that I am an imperfect human) very prominently in our world, as I know it, is of a gaping lack of authentic, non-transactional kindness and love.

I’d like to preface this by once again highlighting that I do not consider myself outside of this deficit. My love and kindness are impoverished, surely not what love and kindness could truly be. I feel that I can speak on this because I am part of it.

Do we fight for social justice? Do we advocate for human rights? Do we believe in universal human dignity and the protection of it?

Do we also treat each human being we encounter with the same ferocious, passionate care we claim for humanity?

Do we insult people behind their backs? Do we fail to be intentional and genuine with everyone? Do we fail to make certain people feel cared for by our disengaged, disenchanted demeanor?

The answer, by the way, is yes. If you’re human, yes. Our love and kindness are not what they proclaim to be. My love and kindness are not what they proclaim to be.

I can admit this without shame because I know my worth. I know that my flaws and weaknesses have no effect on my value as a human being. And yet, I also know it’s important to admit these truths, and to acknowledge what they mean.

There is no such thing as loving “enough.” There is no such thing as being kind “enough.” The world is shattered. We are a broken, imperfect people. There will never be a day where we will be able to claim that we were perfectly kind, or that we loved perfectly.

What shall we say then? Shall we go on hopelessly, or apathetically, since imperfection is inevitable? By no means!

Acknowledging that our love and kindness needs growth creates room for that growth. It’s not self-deprecating to accept imperfection. Imperfection is a fact— but it shouldn’t lead to shame. Shame is a lie. Shame would claim that we need to be perfect to be priceless. Shame is dehumanizing and devaluing. We were not created to feel shame.

But we were indeed created to grow.

Love needs us to be open to growing in it. Love needs space to expand into. Love requires true intentionality. Love requires genuine relationship.

Love requires our acknowledgment that we can work on it.

How are we going to go about doing that? I might try setting my pride aside, so that I never treat anyone in my heart as if they’re a means to an end, or consider someone unworthy of my care. I might try to look people in the eye a little more. I might try being less quick to jump to annoyance or frustration. I might attempt to put away a bit of my judgment.

I might hold my tongue if my thoughts are about to release something dark and negative into the Universe. I might say sorry when I hurt someone, even if I think I’m right, because their perspective matters. I might listen to others’ thoughts and feelings, even if they differ from my own experience. I might have more intentional conversations.

I might be honest, even when it hurts. I might take a deep breath and work through an argument thoughtfully, instead of remaining closed minded. I might take a little more time to make sure others feel cared for.

I might allow room for myself to grow in love, something humanity can never get enough of.

How are you going to grow in your love?

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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