The storm finally broke. I awoke to cloudy skies, cooler temperatures and the hum of generators in the air. I crawled out of bed and headed toward my front door. As I walked out I saw downed trees, a flooded street and people. People, just like me, who were waking up to a new day and a new world. A world post Ian.
Unable to actually cross the street, I called out to my stunned neighbors, as they were assessing their damage. “How did you weather the storm?” It was as if now we were connected in some deep and profoundly intimate way. Connected by so much more than merely physical proximity. People whom I had previously recognized as neighbors, were now my fellow survivors. Compatriots of this new world that reminded us of our old world. But that we all knew was forever changed.
We picked up branches and moved ripped up bushes to the curb. We walked around the outside of our houses. We seemed to be inspecting them for any and all damage. But what we were actually doing was reliving the events of the previous day. Imagining what it must have been like to actually be out in the storm. Feeling, in a very tangible way, the power and fury of the wind and rain. Feeling a sense of amazement that anything was standing at all. It was psychological and emotional triage, disguised as physical triage of our damaged homes.
As I walked around my house, seeing a tree on my roof and the destruction of my lanai, I was struck with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Gratitude that I was alive. Gratitude that things weren’t worse. And gratitude in experiencing something that I have thought about, taught and by which I have strived to lived. Gratitude for that moment of realizing that what I believe is truly something real. Something tangible. Something beyond pie-in-the-sky fantasy. The ultimate blessing of life isn’t about winning. It’s about receiving.
In that moment, life wasn’t about bottom lines, investment portfolios, the latest gadget, the car one drove or the political party one supported. In that moment, on that morning after Ian, as we were all doing the exact same thing – assessing the damage and being thankful for it not being worse – we were all the same. People who, by the grace of God, survived to see another day. On this day, in this place, both where we were and how we were, was a gift. And all of us had received the exact same gift. Regardless of age, socio-economic status, race or gender, we were all together in one place.
Did we lock arms and sing “Kumbaya”? No. Did we lock arms and help clean up yards? Did we offer each other something to eat and drink? Did we charge dying cell phones with our generators? Did we push cars out of the flood waters? Yes. If only for a moment, we were fellow travelers on this journey to be. And in that moment, I realized that it is true that the ultimate blessing of life isn’t about winning. It’s about receiving.
Here’s the trick: How do I continue to live in this reality, long after recovery has happened? Long after needing to receive isn’t as vital as it is in this moment? How do I hold onto my morning after Ian revelation? How do I simply live in the blessing of a new day? How do I simply live in the blessing of the air I breath, the people I love and the tasks I get to perform? How do I simply live in response to what I have been given?