When the storms of life are raging, Stand by me.
Hurricane Florence wreaked havoc on parts of the country and after watching days of wind and rain-drenched reporters bringing us authentic wind gusts and toppled houses and trees, I think we get “it”—this storm is/was ferocious. The governors and emergency management personnel have done as much as possible to get residents out of harm’s way, but weather these days is such a serious thing, being prepared has taken on a life of its own.
A couple years ago when United Methodists were gathered at the conference center in Paducah, Kentucky, heavy rain and flash floods came while we were inside. When we emerged, the streets were flooded and I had to pull off my shoes in water up to my knees, not knowing what was lurking in the rushing darkness, not knowing if I could reach my car or if it had been swept away. Nevertheless, compared to Hurricane Harvey last year and Florence and her aftermath today and last week, emergency management is a topic we must discuss more seriously when the sun is shining.
Most of us don’t have to think about what we would need if we had to flee our homes in a hurry–spare glasses, medicines and insurance, Social Security card, a waterproof means of identification… we don’t have to think about what we REALLY need though almost daily we hear about immigrants and refugees who are escaping war-torn areas. They, too, are in the same predicament as our storm victims—leaving all that is familiar without any guarantee they will ever see home again. As we keep praying for and reaching out to our latest storm victims, here are three important things to remember:
Preparation is critical and while you may not have everything you need, better to be ready than to be without. Fix an emergency kit with at least three days of medicine, a cell phone charger, (preferably one of those battery packs that’s always charged in case the electricity is out), a tank of gas, insurance papers in a sealable plastic bag, toiletries, change of clothes, and spare keys. Sit down today and think about what you NEED and keep it handy in case you only have minutes to get going.
Understand so long as everyone is safe, that’s the main thing, but don’t apologize for your attachment to the things that made you feel safe and made home, home—pictures, the family Bible, the children’s growth etchings on the kitchen wall, your mother’s wedding ring, etc. Yes, they were just things but they were yours and they had meaning. The feelings of loss may be invisible but when you have worked your whole life and everything’s gone up in smoke or blown or washed away, it’s devastating and heartbreaking. Get some help—there is no shame in seeking professional help with the depression, anxiety, etc. that come whenever it gets cloudy or from traumatic experiences/loss. Seeking help is also critical for children who may experience nightmares, bedwetting, and other signs of trauma. Don’t let anyone tell you how you should feel—we all react to loss differently.
Don’t say stupid stuff. In most instances, the recent storms with names like your favorite aunt or uncle (I have an Uncle Harvey and an Aunt Florence), coupled with the howling winds and heavy rain that were already personally pelting the most vulnerable, simply created more chaos and uncertainty. This is a time for empathy – not finger pointing.
Send notes of support along with the flood buckets. Donate money to reputable and established agencies doing the ministry to/with the victims, help with meals for first responders who usually work around the clock to get power and order restored, go to the shelters and play with fussy toddlers and babies, offer hugs and hold anxious hands and hearts, reassure the elderly—the list is endless. Keep sharing and praying in the days ahead for even when the flood waters recede, the storms will still be raging—let’s stand by our neighbors so they can be whole again.
“When the storms of life are raging, Stand by me…” opening line of Charles A. Tindley hymn, Stand by me.
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