Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12. 12. 12.

Today, on the twelfth day of the twelfth month in the twelfth year of the twenty-first century, celebrities and artists will come together to remember and raise money for people whose holidays and futures were redesigned by Nature’s fierce architect, Hurricane Sandy. May the stars align on stage to shape new constellations for the men, women, and children trying to find the joy in the season.

Such grand gestures are wonderful, and I admire those people who conceive them and all those who execute them. I’d love to be among them, but I’m an ordinary citizen, no one extraordinary. I’m neither celebrity nor star, and I’ve never lost to Nature’s fury. Tornadoes have changed course and skipped my home. Earthquakes have rattled the occasional dish, but I’ve never sustained losses or needed to run outside. I don’t live on flood plain and where waters have risen, I’ve barely had to change my route or routine.

Lest anyone think I’ve sallied through life unscathed, I must grant that I have not. I have lost. My heart’s been broken. I’ve been betrayed and forced to let go.

I’ve also been a witness on the sidelines when others endured an F-5 tornado. Two women, each living alone, had to be pulled from the wreckage of their homes, from beneath the roofs resting on the ground. One woman was already a widow, the other would soon lose her husband, wasted by Alzheimer’s, but on the night his home fell in, he was in a nursing home across town, unaware of any storm or hazard to his loved one. Each woman had to choose a new car, their own having been crushed by the weight of timber and trees. Each lost her most intimate possessions, the trinkets accumulated over time, the ones that recall the sounds and sights of children, love, holidays, and weddings.

Because of those women and my own casual brushes with loss, I know that the most important people in the healing and rebuilding process are people like me. Those celebrities and artists will lead many to give generously, and those funds will help ameliorate the suffering, but it’s the people who are there for the long-haul that matter most.

Be the person who holds the hands of others just because they need a moment’s support. Be the one who listens to the same list of fears and losses each time the sufferer needs to tell of them all. Summon patience and empathy beyond measure.

Above all, try to remember Maudie Atkinson when she lost everything she owned one rare, snowy night in Alabama. She simply said that she’d rebuild and that the new building would be better than the old one. She had hope and faith. May all those afflicted have the same, especially in this season of love and giving.