Friday, May 2, 2014

A Thousand Words

A picture is worth a thousand words, right?

I've heard that so many times. And I always thought it was true.

Often it is true. There are some iconic photos out there that speak volumes, images that exist as poetry for the eyes. They tell a story.

This week, I learned that it's just as often untrue. Sometimes, no picture does it justice, but words come close.

I saw a billion photos of the destruction of my town. I have looked at leveled buildings and aerial views and even videos. They did not prepare me for seeing the wreckage first hand.

Last night, I chaperoned a small group of teens serving a meal in one of the destroyed neighborhoods. Driving into the church parking lot gave me a vision I was not prepared for. I'd seen photos, photos of that exact location. I thought I knew what had happened. I thought I knew what to expect.

I was wrong.

As I turned onto Country Club Road, my whole chest heaved. I swallowed my own heart. I sobbed on my steering wheel.

Hours later, leaving that same lot, I faced the view again. And I cried again. I looked up at the skeleton of a steeple left on Saint Luke United Methodist and I thought about my book. If you're new to my blog, the novel I mean is about a tornado ripping through a small town in Mississippi. I told my sons, "I feel like I've been dropped into my own story."

That's when I realized the truth.

Words sometimes mean more than a picture. With words, I can tell you not just what I see but how I see it. A picture may capture that one demolished house or even a panoramic view of the street, but a picture doesn't tell you what memories I have there. A picture won't tell you that I stood in a driveway by that church one week ago, and I thought how cute the neighborhood is. A picture can't tell you how I considered buying in that neighborhood, three years ago, how in love with the area I was.

A picture can't tell you how it feels to see friends, church members and neighbors, trailing into the battered church gym in their work clothes, faces a mix of laughter-through-tears and utter emptiness. Even if I took a photo of those faces, do you know their hearts? Have you seen how carefree they looked three days ago?

Sometimes, it takes words, it takes stories, it takes memory and experience.

Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and sometimes…

Sometimes, a thousand words will never be enough.


*Take a moment to read a friend's story from working recover in Arkansas. It's worth your time: The Joy of a Donut.


  1. Yes. Yes. I went back to my house today to try to finish cleaning up glass. And I just had to sit in my driveway and cry for a minute.

    1. Were y'all home when it hit? I can't even imagine. Let us know if you need any help. Corey can bring his chainsaw.


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