Any other time, this would have been a “grumble week.” You know the kind: a lot of late nights, a lot of small irritants.
Not after Reading.
Not after Joplin.
You’ve seen the pictures. You know what I mean. Utter devestation. Homes gone, trees gone, businesses gone. For some, lives gone … or lucky not to be gone.
“Our sister-in-law in Joplin just about died in the tornado,” Carolyn, an old friend from Topeka wrote me online, once things had settled down a little. Her sister-in-law had pulled into a Dillon’s parking lot, she explained, when the tornado caught the truck and sent it airborne.
“She blacked out; the truck was either rolling and/or spinning,” Carolyn wrote. “(It) ended up at (the) other side of the parking lot, as it smashed into concrete at (a) former mailbox/ATM site. She’s beat up, cut, bruised with debris imbedded, very thankful to be alive. Her left ear (was) totally occluded with dirt.”
It was a weekend for stories like that. I used to live in Emporia, Kansas, just down the road from Reading; I knew places there, knew people there. Many of those people knew still more in Joplin.
I found myself hunting names on Facebook, chasing news accounts, trying to pick anything out of the chaos, post by post.
“Add the (Reading) town hall to the buildings that were damaged, while the senior center, according to KVOE, was ‘virtually destroyed’…”
“They are saying debris (from Joplin) fell as far away as Springfield …”
“I’m fine, just hail damage and a couple of missed heart beats…”
“My sister’s niece was found dead. She worked at a Pizza Hut on Range Line Avenue …”
When all that starts to surround you like a sea, you become strangely charged and strangely numb at the same time. You need to know more, yet you fear to know too much, lest it break your heart.
And in the midst of it all, you learn what important really is.
Important is the friends and family you’d barely thought about until you realized you might never see them again.
Important is the home that’s always been just a place to land until that place became nonexistent.
Important is the job you’ve grumbled at for years, never thinking it might suddenly vanish tomorrow.
When loss threatens to become real, we learn where our heart is. When the tornado’s on the horizon, we know what we have to save.
Let’s find that perspective now. All of us. We need to learn to value these things in the calm before the storm. To live, not just exist. To hold others close and be held while the skies are clear and the time can be enjoyed.
Tomorrow, it could all be gone with a puff of wind.
But today we have.