Wednesday, November 7, 2012

More Than My Zip Code

It is September 12, 2008 and we are hiding out at a hotel in San Antonio with our three children, waiting for Hurricane Ike to pass by. Coastal newbies, we aren't taking any chances staying on the Island. Only our second hurricane season living in Corpus and what will be the third costliest Atlantic hurricane in history is barreling toward our home (surpassed only by Katrina in 2005 and Sandy last week).

For almost two weeks we watch her coming, watch her wreak havoc moving from the Atlantic into the Gulf, watch the spaghetti noodles turn and take aim at our coastline. 

We waver back and forth. Do we spend money on lumber to board up? What if they run out of supplies while we second-guess? It takes everything I've got just to keep up with the two-year-old boy trying to kill himself all the time plus the two sisters in kindergarten and third grade. Do I pack? Do I not pack? Is it a foolish waste of precious time? What do I pack? When do I pack?

What is the moment we reach critical mass and move? We are new at this. We learn when the Weather Channel has updates and we watch her like a boiling pot on the burner, and we can't turn the heat down. We are calm and we are flustered. We know she will probably pass, and we wonder if she will change our life. 

I imagine coming back home to a disaster and starting over again. I imagine coming together with others to help. Then, I try to stop imagining. I am calm at bedrock because we will not lose what is most important.

In the end, we board up, pack up and leave. We get to San Antonio and discover she will pass us by and hit Galveston and Houston. We own a home there, but we are naive and don't worry, because the house is at least seventy miles inland from Galveston Bay.

At 7:00 am the morning of September 13, we are in bed and my husband's mobile phone rings - our tenants. They are still in the closet under the stairs, where they have spent the night. Wearily she says, "Don, this is Anne. The house is pretty much completely destroyed. We're in the closet. It hasn't stopped raining. The house is falling in around us." One house, two mamas, two families impacted.

No time to process and we're all on the phone in our pajamas with insurance companies - "What do we do?" For us, it began as a flurry of activity (meet the insurance guy, clean it up, tear it out, build it back, new tenants), and it stretched into a two-year-long epic before we were finally reimbursed for everything we lost and everything it cost. We are still living with some of the consequences of that storm and we didn't even live in the house when it was hit.

I will never watch the weather the same again. 

Most of the time all I need is the weather in my zip code please. And really I don't care if it rains unless it will cancel the outdoor event I've worked on for six months. 

But last week, as I watched Sandy approaching strangers on the East coast, everything was different. I saw all those mamas in emergency mode, trying to decide what to do. Not strangers, but friends in the distance.

Up before dark, breakfast, try to pack, change a diaper, find important files, morning snack, find precious pictures, find the outfit they wore home from the hospital, where are our social security cards, fix lunch, clean up a spill, how can I not have room for all of this childhood artwork.......all the while hoping it doesn't matter because surely we'll be right back and nothing will have changed.

For me, when the weather changed everything, everything changed.

When you weather destruction, you rebuild and you are rebuilt.

You become alert and prayerful. You are compassionate. You are generous. And you care about more than your zip code.

"...we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God..." - the Apostle Paul


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