Friday, October 20, 2006

Learning and Living Wiser

I'm floundering a bit... Still recuperating from our area's worst, most destructive disaster in 137 years of record-keeping.

Last night the D.J. on our local news station (a very, very funny guy normally) said that, after receiving so many calls during the storm-survival call-in shows, he thinks most of us are going through a grieving process. We've lost 13 people... thousands of trees and the secure feeling we once had inside our homes (many families had trees crash through their roof, or their basements flooded, or electrical wires pulled from their houses or lost their electricity anywhere from 3 - 8 days).

And the more he spoke about it, the more I thought, "Yes! That would explain why I've just been sort-of wandering around my house, unable to step back into the pattern of my days... and feeling sad for what appears to be no definitive reason (having had no trees fall upon my house or harm come to people with whom I am acquainted). And not feeling like doing much of anything. It's been like going through a grieving process."

I've not told you about the deaths, but since two of you mentioned using Coleman stoves, I just have to say this... Of the 13 storm-related deaths in our area, 8 were due to carbon monoxide poisoning. And actually, there were over 230 non-fatal cases of carbon monoxide poisoning reported by area hospitals. These sad cases happened because people used their gas kitchen stoves to heat their homes (the biggest cause of poisoning), or they didn't place their generators far enough away from their houses or they put them inside an attached garage (even with all the garage doors opened, that's still dangerous). In one case, an elderly (91) tenant and his landlady died because they actually brought their generator inside their house and placed it in a downstairs hallway.

Our local news radio station over and over told people not to do those things. And perhaps I shouldn't even share these stories, but maybe they can help save lives...

One man died while shoveling the snow in his driveway beneath a tree which his wife kept telling him didn't appear to be safe. She helped him clear the driveway awhile then told (begged) him to come inside the house with her and leave the rest of the snow till later. But he wouldn't listen to her and said he'd be in soon. Well, a huge branch fell on him ... His wife, from the window, saw it happen, and she and the neighbors pulled off the branch from him, but it was too late. In the newspaper report she sounded so angry and frustrated because it didn't need to happen-- he could have shoveled later when it was safe (there was no place to go and businesses were closed anyway) and he hadn't listened to her concerns. I exactly knew and understood her same frustration--many has been the time when Tom gets it into his head to do something and there's just NO stopping him, no matter what I say or do.

Then today an elderly man died from injuries suffered from a fall from a ladder two days ago. Sigh... Elderly people and ladders do not mix. People have been helping each other like crazy and the 2,500+ electrical workers from out-of-state have been going out of their way to help people in neighborhoods, too. Had he asked (or kept asking), I'm certain he could have found someone to climb the ladder for him.

Well anyway, these are the kinds of things which have been happening to the people who live where I do and it's heartbreaking when it hits so close to home... to neighbors in towns so close by. There is a sense of grief very heavy in the air surrounding all of us... and it hasn't helped that it just keeps raining, day following day, from dark, dark skies...

But three days ago I finally got out of the house and over to the supermarket and as I stood at the check-stand I looked all around me at the people from my town. And I suddenly felt very proud of them. In the 13 years I've lived here we've all experienced lots of record-breaking storms (though this one was by far the biggest) and still, over and over, the people keep bouncing back. They hang in there and allow the storms to toughen them and make them wiser so that they deal with the next one better. They become better and stronger, not bitter and crushed.

And that's partly why I love living here.

And now I'm giving myself a break during this time of grieving... taking a little time out and just being gentle with myself. And chalking this up to yet another thing on the list which will help me be more sympathetic toward others who are going through something similar... that I'll be able to give them something more than just a quickly-quipped Bible verse and a "God bless you." Any time I can allow hardships to mold me into a more compassionate person, my heart becomes larger and more aware and better able to give to others in their time of need.

And always a good place to begin in any difficult occasion, is to do for others what I wish others would have done for me.

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