As we heard the storm approaching and the power was knocked out, we quickly gathered the family and headed to the basement. While I'm sure this completely frightened Big Sister, who had been living with us under one week at this point, she put on a face of courage as I am sure she has to do many times before, for situations far graver than high winds and downed power lines. The other kids were half asleep, half awake, and I headed to the window (I know, bad idea) to watch in awe as lightening lit up the dark sky more brightly than any street light ever could. I watched branches topple and our neighbor's tree come crashing down on our fence. I listened to the wind gust more ferociously than I had ever heard. Each time a surge came through, I took a deep breath and reassured the kids that we would be fine. We stayed in the basement close to an hour and waited for the storm to move out before returning to our beds. I was certain the power would return before morning and we headed to back to sleep.
When morning came, the power was still out and in full daylight we were able to observe the extent of the damage. Thankfully, our only damage was an old fence that separates our yard from our neighbor to the rear. Around the neighborhood, there were damaged roofs, crushed cars, and impassable streets. By 8:30 am, we learned of two fatalities close by. Everyone in the neighborhood was outside, amazingly with smiles on their faces, and willing to lend a helping hand as needed. As the day went on and power was yet to be restored, I was taking in the moments and mentally filing away some awesome lessons from the day. Here are some of the things I learned:
- When our lives are forced to a halt, there is so much joy in sharing the time and experience with those around us. Regardless of lacking power and ridiculously high (or low, in the winter) temperatures, most people rally around each other and help to meet each other's needs. And it is joyful! Why don't we do this more often in day-to-day living?
- Everyone was using the tools and skills they had to help one another. Those with power tools and chainsaws helped clear paths and cut up large tree branches. Some brought out drinks and refreshments. We all gathered outside and worked and chatted and accomplished what needed to get done.
- I believe a lot of us secretly and not so secretly enjoy these occasions to unplug. With no internet, cell, or electricity, we have no choice but to either enjoy each other's company and/or a low-tech activity. Yesterday, we played board games, card games, and activities outside; I read some of my material for the Fall semester and caught up on the world news.
- Kids seek each other out more when there is no incentive to plop on the couch. Pretty much every kid in our neighborhood was either outside or in the house of another family. They all looked happy. I did not hear one complaint from any kid about lack of power. Why is that? I believe that it is because there is so much joy to be found in community. There is something so instinctive about connecting with one another and with nature.
Last night as the sun set, and it became clear our power not coming back on anytime soon, a bunch of neighborhood kids were playing in our yard and suggested moving out front to play flashlight tag or manhunt. I watched Big Sister as she at first declined to play, no doubt feeling uncomfortable with not being able to fully communicate. I could tell she really wanted to play, but I was not going to force the issue. So, I moved out front with the kids as they formed teams. One of the captains picked Big Sister for her team and I saw her face light up as she moved from my side to the side of her team. I tried to hold back the tears, but you know how that mommy heart thing goes. I was filled with so much joy that she was being included in the play and that she was willing to take part, even though I know she was scared. I was silently thanking God for the wonderful kids and for their hospitality. For their willingness to reach out and make and effort to include Big Sister. For them simply being kids and doing what kids do. My heart was overflowing with praise and joy and I was once again reminded that God works in the details when we allow him.
Father God, maker of all things seen and unseen, thank you for the opportunity to unplug from our distractions and focus on things that really matter. Thank you for the opportunity to love our neighbor, to lend a helping hand, to be helped, and to enjoy your creation without all of the beeping and buzzing. Thank you for children and for their ability to love and adapt and simply play. Help us all to be more childlike and thoughtful in our day-to-day interactions. Today, with power restored, we are given the choice to close back off from the outside world or to continue to reach out to our neighbors. Help us to continue to reach out, even when there may be no blatant reason. We never know when someone may need a helping hand or listening ear. In your precious Son's name we lift up our prayers, Amen.