Last night we experienced our first Hurricane.
And today, we are changed.
About to get in bed, I suddenly heard the front door open and lots of commotion downstairs. I hopped up to find Ed frantic - looking at the pool of water on our front walkway. There was water pouring in at the foundation, he told me. We both darted to the basement. Frantic is the best way to describe our initial reaction. The water just kept coming...the carpets were getting drenched...the stereo and TV equipment was in danger...we felt overwhelmed. For a short while tension was high as we grabbed things and threw them anywhere to get them out of the path of the never ending water. Ed continuously pulled up water into the shop vac while I used towels and ran them up and down from the dryer.
But then - something happened. A stillness between us that I can't explain. A moment when we both realized that this was out of our control. A realization that everything down there was just "stuff". We decided to bring the things that were most important to us upstairs. I was quick to grab our wedding and honeymoon photos and the LARGE collection of books I have put aside for the boys. We also carried up baby equipment that we're hoping to need. (Uh, soon God?) The rest - it would have to work itself out.
Ed stayed up all through the night keeping an eye on the water - sucking it up as much as he could. He was truly a hero. Around 3am I went to get some sleep so I could function when the kids woke up. Then at 6am I relieved Ed who deservedly went to sleep until the afternoon.
There was no damage to our "stuff"...but significant damage to the walls and carpet. Unfortunately our home insurance policy claims they don't cover water damage that comes in through the foundation. We'll have an interesting journey ahead of us as we repair the damage and make it safe in the basement.
During this experience I couldn't help but be humbled. Humbled by mother nature, yes, but also by something more. I was humbled by the lesson.
Just about a month ago Gavin's hearing teacher (and our good friend), Miss Carol, lost her home in a fire. Imagine. She lost most everything she owned. All through the night I thought about her - during my frantic "I MUST SAVE MY STUFF" moments, I felt what must have been only a millimeter of what she went through. I was so humbled. We will have to replace a carpet and a wall and insignificant things. Carol has to replace everything. I'm actually having a "virtual shower" and a Tupperware Party for her starting tonight to help her rebuild her home from the inside out. One spoon, one towel, one Tupperware container at a time.
Also through the night as we continued to soak up the water the smell was overwhelming. A smell of dusty, dirty water that stung our noses and attached itself to our clothes. It was awful. As I stood in front of the washer and dryer for the third or fourth time, I felt I could weep. I thought about the victims of hurricane Katrina. What they must have smelled - for days. Their "stuff" - their livelihood - their loved ones - all washed away. I have had sympathy for their experiences. But my very small experience with this rather minor hurricane has helped me have empathy.
Did we over react to our flood situation?
Am I comparing our situation to bigger catastrophes?
Not at all.
Are we embarrassed that we panicked?
Never. Know why?
Every negative experience in life - big or small - comes with a lesson. Sometimes several lessons, if you're lucky. While many may look at my life as a series of difficult and trying circumstances and events - that is not how I see it at all. Every experience has changed me. Humbled me. Reminded me that it's all about keeping things in perspective. And reminding me that nothing is really in my control except my reaction to experiences.
The lessons that came out of this experience were humbling. It reminded us what is really important...and it's not our giant collection of dusty stuff. It reminded us that we're a great team. And it gave us some much needed perspective.
Yes, today we are changed. And I am glad.
Post note! If anyone is in need of Tupperware, please let me know! All of my hosting credit is going to be generously doubled by Tupperware and will go right to Carol so she can rebuild her collection. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!