By Sue Murphy
Grateful. Thankful. Amazingly, those are the words I’ve heard most since the tornadoes descended on us a few weeks back.
The storms themselves were terrifying. Dave and I spent the night hunkered down in the basement bathroom. My cable and internet went out, so my daughter sent text updates: “Now in Shelby County.” “Headed right for you.”
It was scary, surreal, but then, just like that, it was over. When it seemed safe, I went to the door and looked outside. My property was unscathed, and I felt a rush of relief. A few minutes later, however, the damage reports started to trickle in. People in the neighborhoods around me hadn’t been so lucky. Each picture posted was worse than the last.
The storm had been wicked. It spared one house and leveled the one right across the street. It took out trees on the left side of the road and left children’s riding toys unmoved in the yard on the right.
It was sobering, not only because of the random nature of the storm’s path, but the violence of it all. Highway 119 looked like a deranged person had moved through with a buzz saw. I’d seen pictures like that on TV before, but this was real. This was close. This was me.
We tend to grow complacent. We build and we gather and we see our accomplishments stacked neatly one on top of another, and we get to feeling just a bit self-sufficient, empowered, Teflon, like there’s a formula to life, and by golly, we’ve got it figured out.
And then, something like this happens. The resulting damage is severe, not only to our property but to our psyche. We come face-to-face with the fact that, like Pooh’s friend Piglet, we are all just very small animals.
We are vulnerable. We are fragile. We are beholden.
When the initial storm is over, we emerge into the light, blinking, hollow, stripped of our bravado, stripped of everything, and the question that hits us in the face is, “How could anyone possibly move forward from here?”
And that’s when the blessings appear. The devastating “now what” begins to be answered by other people, many you don’t even know. There’s the neighbor who complains about your dog, the guy who supports a different political candidate, the couple who root for (shudder) the other team – all of these people are now on your doorstep, and somehow, tree trunks are lifted, debris is cleared, a sack lunch is put into your hands. Without a single phone call, the police are on the scene and the firefighters and utility workers who immediately set to work restoring your power and water.
When you are better able to process it, you realize that what emerged was kindness and generosity and a shared realization of how we are all connected. It’s easy to lose track of that. We go about our days, return home to our self-made cocoons. The garage door goes up, you go in, the garage door goes down. You might not have a conversation with your neighbors for months. And yet, in these situations, it becomes obvious that, no matter how capable you are, you cannot, do not, move through life on your own. You may not see them, but there are always people holding you up, physically and emotionally – personal infrastructure.
These people are a blessing. They have been all along. In the middle of the devastation, we are broken and healed at the same time. Thankful and grateful.