Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Good Stuff? I Beg to Differ

Every day, I feel blessed to live where I can see God's creation evolving with the shifting seasons. Too often, people see Kansas as a flat, uninteresting place that just provides miles to go before you get to the mountains of Colorado or the lakes of Missouri.

I'm all for tourism in Kansas and helping others see the beauty and complexity of the beautiful place we call home.

But I just can't understand one popular form of tourism in Kansas these days. I suppose that storm chasing brings an infusion of some cash to gas stations, restaurants and motels in the Central Plains. But, to me, storm chasing just capitalizes on the pain and tragedy of others.

I don't want some adventure-seeking tourist hoping for that big storm that will give him a thrill for a few minutes.

Those storms take people's lives and property. I was heartbroken to learn that Tuesday night's storms took the lives of two members of a fellow Stafford County 4-H family and seriously injured another. Linda Gleason and her son, Jeffrey, were killed when a cottonwood tree, 4 feet in diameter, was toppled onto their vehicle by a tornado. The St. John family had pulled into a driveway to try to weather the storm. Kristin, who just graduated from K-State, was seriously hurt. I keep praying for her and for her dad, Jim, who now have to pick up the pieces of their lives.

The Stafford County Fair just won't be the same. The Gleasons and I had a contest for whose face could get the hottest and reddest first in the unairconditioned confines of the fair's 4-H building. They were superintendents of the 4-H arts and crafts department. I am across the way in the foods department.

Jeff (just like his sister Kristin before him) was a consummate baker and always had multiple entries in the 4-H foods division. With a mom who was a former county extension agent, they were always meticulously prepared. Jeff also had a gorgeous voice. The judge at the Stafford County 4-H Club Days this spring told him that he could do anything he wanted with that voice. I guess he's using it to sing with heaven's angels today.

I realize that some of the storm chasers are meteorologists collecting data to try and keep us safer. That's different than the people who are leading tours and charging folks anywhere from $2,000 to $6,500 to catch a glimpse of a tornado.

I know that the tourists aren't to blame for the storms. But it still infuriates me to read things like this on an website:
"Well, it's a rush," explains tornado tourist Mark Reese, from England, who was interviewed in Pratt. "In the UK, we don't get the big storms or the severe weather you get over here. This was the place to come to get the good stuff."
The good stuff, huh? I beg to differ. Let's ask Jim & Kristin Gleason ... or the residents of Joplin, Mo. ... or the people of Reading, Kansas ... or people still rebuilding their lives in Greensburg ... or the people of Chapman ... Unfortunately, the list goes on and on and continues to grow this spring.


  1. Sad to hear such callus comments ... And a lack of respect for these storms and the human lives they are affecting.
    My heart goes out to Stafford's loss.

  2. Kim, thanks for your great post and insight. I'm sorry to hear about your friends and know they will be missed by many.

    Having survived a direct hit from a tornado--and it was nothing like Joplin or Greensburg, etc.--I have lived through that morbid curiosity that many people have. We often felt like we were in a fishbowl. People would drive through our ranch, especially on Sunday afternoons, to see the damage and then later to watch the rebuilding process. I remember coming home about 20 months after the tornado (about ten months after we'd moved back into our house) and found people IN our house. They just wanted to see how we'd fixed it up!

    But through that disaster, we were blessed beyond measure by friends, neighbors, family and complete strangers who cared, helped, worked, cleaned, donated and prayed. That event in our lives molded our character.

    We pray for those affected by all the floods and tornadoes this spring that they have the strength and courage to face the day-to-day decisions and truly feel His peace that passes all of our human understanding.

  3. Thanks, Brenda, for taking time to comment. We have friends who lost their home as the Greensburg tornado moved through Stafford County. They would say the same thing about the love and help they received from friends, their church family, and, yes, even strangers! Life often doesn't make sense when we look at it through our human eyes. I just used the same Bible verse from Phillipians as I wrote sympathy cards to our grieving friends this AM. God bless you and yours!