I was all set today to complain about my pet peeves, which are unresponsive, insensitive, and incompetent bureaucrats and corporations; and unresponsive, overly complicated, and generally lousy technology. But then tornadoes blew through and devastated the little towns of Smithville and Wren, MS, as well as Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, AL and gave me some perspective on my trivial concerns.

A number of the members of my congregation in Amory, MS live or work in or have ties  to Smithville and Wren. As I talked with them yesterday or read their Facebook posts, I felt humbled by their sacrifice and courage and ashamed of my complaining. There was Ricky, who was working in the Post Office when it was flattened; he survived (without a scratch) by clinging to a pipe. Or Truitt, who with a Department of Transportation crew helping, worked six hours just to clear 200 yards of debris from the road. Or Molly, whose aunt and uncle lost everything when the storm blew their home apart. Debbie, whose car was destroyed. Tom, who posted pictures and a story of sorrow of his now 60%-destroyed hometown as an iReporter for CNN . Warren and Don, two minister friends who were working mortuary duty at the Monroe County Chamber of Smithville 5Commerce and with sadness reported to me that 38* had been killed in a town of less than 1000.

How dare I complain about anything when there are those who have no home, no clothing but what’s on their backs, no transportation of their own, no cherished pictures, no anything, who now must depend on others for everything they need? How can I grieve my little losses when so many across the South have had their loved ones taken from them?

Of course, knowing me, this attitude won’t last, sinful and flawed man that I am. But maybe for a little while, my life will be different and better from having reflected on what really matters.

© 2011 Tom Cheatham. All rights reserved.

*Please note that I likely misunderstood this figure. As of 5:17 PM on April 29, the confirmed death toll from a reliable source was 14.