A year ago I had never heard of Joplin, Missouri or a young man named Will Norton. The devastation left by a deadly EF-5 Tornado led me to reach out to the Joplin School District. I desperately wanted to help the 260 teachers whose schools and classrooms lie in the path of destruction. I knew if I could make it to Joplin and meet with the teachers I could show them how to rebuild their classrooms with DonorsChoose.org.
In preparing for my trip I had heard stories about a young man who had passed away in the tornado. Will Norton was headed home from his high school graduation when the tornado hit. I watched in quiet desperation in the days following the tornado as the community searched for Will. I grieved with the entire nation when the family announced his passing. Arriving in Joplin a few weeks after the tornado is an experience I will never forget. So many emotions still lie so close to the surface and words could never convey what I saw and experienced in that hallowed -- broken ground. I tried hard to stay focused on the teachers, students, and needs of Joplin Schools.
With over 200 projects posted and the numbers growing daily I had taken a leap of faith with Joplin teachers and DonorsChoose.org that donors throughout the country would look at these projects and reach out in compassion to fund them.
Throughout my trip I met people who asked me if I knew about Will. Each person who told
me about Will had this look on their face that can only be described as a mix of joy and pain. Will left a huge mark on the Joplin community. We hear about people like Will in life and we think...they are just too good to be true. We sense the time they spend here is certainly meant to teach us something profound about our lives and the path we choose to take...we learn that life is fragile and delicate and too short to waste on anything but love. As I flew home from Joplin I started watching Will's YouTube channel, Willdabeast, and I understood what everyone in Joplin was talking about...Will was AMAZING.
One of the things I remembered hearing in Joplin was Will's mom saying to, "Live Your Life Like Will". Her loss and message helped guide me in those early days. I felt determined that Joplin's projects would be funded. If I was worried or down I would go to Will's channel on YouTube for inspiration...I felt Will's spirit and enthusiasm and knew I could not let the memory of this awesome young man down.
So today, in marking the one year anniversary...I honor the memory of Will and thank him for keeping me strong. I have tried my best to, "Live My Life Like Will" this year and embrace each day with a new sense of hope and wonder. I raise my hat over my head and both ears and blow my horn for Will today...Let's all "Crowd Surf" through life and touch as many people as we can in the moments we are here...Thank you to Will's high school business teacher for sharing that story. All You Need Is Love...to change the world. Blessing.
Visit www.donorschoose.org/joplin to join Debby in "Living Like Will" and rebuilding Joplin.