A lot happens between sunrise and sunset. The Sunday prior to Flo’s arrival, I took a photo of the sun rising over a placid Cape Fear River. I took another picture of the sun setting beneath the river the day Flo finally moved on, leaving our region with flooding, debris, at least three deaths, and a lot to think about. Sunrises, sunsets and storms are humbling.
After several days without power, the nearby grocery store opened during the storm. When the light drizzle became sideways sheets, the clerk moved to get as many of us as she could in, out of the rain, speaking crisply and finishing her instructions with, “We’re all volunteers here. Remember to be kind. You know, ‘Love thy neighbor.’”
When she stopped, a fireplug of a man about my age started bitching and moaning loudly on how she spoke too fast. He complained, why doesn’t she just get on with letting us all in and shut up so he could get his stuff? A quiet young couple in front of me wearing UNCW gear looked miffed but didn’t say anything.
After his next round of wet whining, I translated for him. It takes some of us longer than others to find the eye of the hurricane within ourselves, to shift from the language of competition and consumerism to the language of cooperation and compassion. “Be grateful they’re open; stay kind,” I said. “It’s not your hurricane. You’re better than this, man.”
During Flo and its aftermath, most everyone spoke the language of cooperation and showed their better selves. As far as the guy whining, I’m not rushing to judgement. He was having a moment. Maybe he should have evacuated, but he didn’t. He stayed to ride out Flo same as me, maybe to help a vulnerable relative or friend with fewer resources and nowhere to really go. It turns out there are a lot of reasons people knowingly stay in the path of any storm. Only one of them is because we’re idiots—and it’s the least likely.
During the eye of the storm neighbors spontaneously came out of their homes, chatted and checked on each other. I ran a 5k through the neighborhood with a fellow runner and Coast Guard veteran. We checked on a few folks. A lot of people stayed to begin the recovery process.
I found a positive flow and carried a little of the eye-of-the-storm mindset with me in the week after Flo.
Be grateful for Pop-Tarts.
Find someone to help.
Clear more debris.
Find someone else to help.
Be grateful for Pop-Tarts. Connect again.
After connecting with my sons Joe and Pat and our good friend Caylan McKay after a day of amateur lumberjacking, Pat noted, “There’s still such a weird energy from the storm. People we don’t even know are asking, ‘Are you safe? Do you have water and something to eat?”
We all agreed even our workplaces seemed to be at least as concerned with our well-being as with deadlines and the bottom line. Now, that’s something to think about.
It’s also humbling that it’s never “our” hurricane any more than it’s our sunrise. The same week Flo blew through, Typhoon Mangkut trekked across the Philippines and Hong Kong. A friend shared pictures of a similar path of destruction along a river he enjoys, as well as a similar resolve to recover. I’m ready to go back to work, but I’m not quite ready to get back to “normal”—being merely busy, shuffling forms from inbox to outbox, pointing and clicking myself to death, becoming defined by distractions. I like a good bit of the post-Flo flow. The tempest’s “weird energy” may suggest when competition and cooperation meet in a storm, it is cooperation that leads us to our better selves. I’ll at least try to find the eye of the storms within myself and speak the language of cooperation and compassion more: “Do you have enough water, a safe place to stay?”
It may not always be raining, but it’s always a storm for somebody.