Human Interest

Surviving A Storm

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My heart goes out to all those affected by our latest barrage of hurricanes, storms and flooding. I have never experienced a hurricane. However, watching the devastation of the past couple of weeks caused me to think deeply and differently about the storms that I have faced in life. We all face situations in life that can be as powerful and life-changing as a hurricane physically, spiritually and emotionally. My mind went back to an experience I had with a tornado. On Wednesday, July 2, 1997 around 6:00 p.m. I was visiting with family having a great time. Suddenly the skies darkened and the severe weather siren began to blow. My family decided to take cover in the basement. I decided to rush over to the church for Wednesday night bible study. They tried to convince me to stay, but my mind was made up. As I headed west up I-96 near the Davison Freeway (First Urban Freeway in the U.S., built in 1941 opened in 1942), the winds were becoming treacherous. Suddenly my car died as if the computer got scrambled or something. I decided to leave my car on the shoulder. I climbed up the grass to the main road. Because I love running so much, I thought I would run back to my family’s home, because it was only about a little over a mile. I could probably do that sooner than waiting for a tow truck.
When I made it to freeway service drive the rains were beginning to come down with treacherous winds. So, I stopped at a popular ice cream parlor on Ewald Circle. I figured I would hang out under the awning until the rain passed. Well, while I was waiting the winds became stronger than anything I had ever experienced. The metal furniture began to levitate. Suddenly the large, iron garbage cans blew past me like pieces of balled up paper. So, I decided to make a break and run to the house. This spot was getting kind of dangerous. As I ran down the residential streets near Livernois and Davison, where large trees beautifully lined both sides of each block, there was continual crackling and banging. Tree branches were falling all around me. I just kept running. Finally, I reached a main street away from trees. Two blocks to go. As I approached my street I anticipated turning last corner and sprinting the last block anxious to get out of the heavy rain and winds. There is a collision shop on the corner and as I ran past there were people standing inside with the service door open. They frantically yelled to me “Stop. Stop. Stop! Don’t turn that corner!! There’s a live wire in that water!!! Come in here with us.” I did. Whew!

When I go to our house I turned on the news only to discover that at 6:15 p.m. a tornado had just travelled up the Davison corridor, touched down and devastated neighboring Highland Park and Hamtramack communities. I’m reflecting on my brief experience and trying to magnify it to relate to what our brothers and sisters in the south and Caribbean Islands have been experiencing. My experience pales in comparison. However, I always try to see what I can learn by attaching new knowledge to existing knowledge. Here are a few lessons I have learned as I reflect on what people in these areas are experiencing:

1. Storms don’t ask permission to come. In life storms seem to have a mind of their own. Most people don’t invite storms to come, yet they show up. I have learned to expect the unexpected. There is no point in acting surprised when storms come. We must keep things in perspective in order remain calm during the storms of life. Clarity of thought is critical to surviving storms. If we expend our energy being shocked and flustered when storms occur, we waste energy. We could better use our strength to mount a good response to storms versus reacting and compounding the problems that storms tend to bring. 2. Storms interrupt your routines. When storms come into our lives we can expect our routines to be disrupted. We cannot go on with business as usual. In Florida, certain school districts had to cancel classes for a while. Although the school building may have been unaffected, many of the educators and employees live in areas that were clearly devastated and couldn’t make it to school. Parents who may have been able to work and send their children to school, suddenly had to change their routines, because the storm disrupted the lives of other people. I guess I’m reminded of how inextricably we are all connected. As a friend of mine says “your personal decisions are not private.” Whatever we do is always connected to someone else, even if the connection is not obvious. Storms will reveal how we all lean and depend on each other to fulfill even the simplest of routines. 3. Storms are never convenient. Storms have a way of barging into our conveniences. We take for granted things like clean running water, electricity and transportation. I don’t know if I can think of a time when I would say “I think this would be a great day to lose my internet service.” The good news is that we can survive even when life is not convenient. Maintaining the right attitude will help us to deal with the uncomfortable position storms can put us in. Just because things are temporarily, or permanently inconvenient, it doesn’t mean that we can’t maintain a nice quality of life. It is all about perspective. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ[a] who strengthens me. Ephesians 4:11-13 Remain level-headed about your situation. 4. Storms cause us to draw upon our previous knowledge and experiences. I am so impressed with the resourcefulness of the storm, not survivors, but thrivers. (I realize this is not a real word, but it works). I saw news stories of people using inflatable mattresses as life rafts; using PVC pipe and buckets to create cisterns to catch fresh water. Pressure will cause what is in us to come out, sometimes to our own surprise. No matter what kind of storm you face just know that you have many experiences and lots of knowledge to draw from. The key is being able to collaborate with others who also bring knowledge and experience to the table. 5. Storms highlight our humanity. The most beautiful thing I learned is that regardless of our race, religion, politics, ethnicity, or socio-economic levels, storms can force us to find common ground in our humanity. I noticed that in the months and weeks prior to these storms, our news media outlets were presenting a constant barrage of controversial stories filled with issues, of hatred, disdain and contempt for our fellow man. I love watching the new, but I could hardly stand it anymore. However, since the onset of these storms our news outlets have been filled with positive, human interest stories, highlighting acts of love and kindness. We must remember that even our harshest critics are not monsters. Storms force us to set aside our differences and work together. Hopefully, we can keep this momentum going.

We never know when a storm will occur. We don’t even know exactly what kind of storm we will experience from one day to the next. However, we can be prepared for any type of storm by accepting the fact that storms happen and they happen to everyone. No one is exempt. One of the most important things I have learned is that storms, despite their devastation, inconvenience, and unexpected nature, bring about opportunities to re-boot. Look for the good in every storm. Find value in every tragedy. Always look for ways to support each other as we go through the storms of life.  With that I would like to encourage you to find a way to support the victims of this latest set of hurricanes.  You are a solution to someone’s situation.

I am a speaker, trainer and consultant. *KEYNOTE ADDRESS: Inspiring the Audience to embrace their charge. *WORKSHOP TRAINING: Effectively enhancing the skills of your staff. *CONSULTING SERVICES: Coaching and facilitating your planning and management efforts.

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