My drive to the Panhandle this weekend led me through communities hit hard by Hurricane Michael last October. In fact, my GPS led me a route I’d never taken before down county roads and through rural towns. I couldn’t believe the devastation I saw: trees uprooted or snapped in half, debris piled everywhere, twisted metal signs, and blue tarps covered roof after roof. One of the most striking images I saw was entire wooded areas where all of the trees now stood sideways, forever altered by the 155 mph winds.
I can’t imagine what these residents experienced as the category 4 storm pummeled this region hour after hour. I can’t imagine what the early days of life were in the aftermath of the hurricane. Yet, oddly and unexplainably, life goes on. Five months later, under a gorgeous blue sky, clean-up crews are busy at work everywhere. This community continues to pick up the pieces and rebuild their messy lives.
As I pondered on what I was observing, a few things stood out to me:
- Storms come. They arrive without notice and they terrify us. They reduce us to small and secure spaces. They demand we hunker down and wait them out. They drive us to our knees in prayer. Time stops as they rage and hurl fury.
- Storms stop. They either dissipate or move on. They are timed events. They do not last forever, therefore their power – though it may not seem like it – does have limits.
- Storms leave a mess. They destroy the norms. They require we attend to the aftermath, which seems unfair and undeserved, yet it is inescapable. Clean-up can take a long time.
- Storms change the landscape. I think this may be the hardest part to accept after a storm. We like our homes, our families, our towns, our nature, our norms to remain intact. We like straight trees and mended fences. It’s hard to accept that some things, no matter what you do, will never be as they were before.
- Storms require help. Post-storm, there is a community and professionals to help. This is the good news, we don’t have to do it alone! Some groups have the expertise and equipment to deal with the new reality, the debris piles, the fallen roofs. Sometimes they just show up and sometimes you have to call them, but help is available after a storm.
Physical storms and their effects mirror storms of life we all face. I’ve been through some category 4 storms in my life, how about you? No matter if you see the storm coming or if it catches you off guard, the devastation a storm can bring is life-altering. Once the storm and the fear recede, the clean-up process begins. It can be long and messy. Somewhere in the middle of the clean-up you being to grieve the change of landscape, the shifts from what you always expected. But the good news here – and therefore the hope that helps to heal – is that you don’t have to do this alone. There is help! There are professionals who know the best way to remove the debris, fix the roofs, and help you see the beauty in the new landscape. Don’t get lost in the process. At some point, the skies will clear, the sun will shine down on your world again and you will find a new path forward.