Peace In A Tin Can

Peace In A Tin Can

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Is This The End Of The World?

For days, my family and I watched the reports of Hurricane Sandy, and the development of "The Perfect Storm".  As it approached the East coast and we saw how far reaching this hurricane is, including inclement weather for us here in Michigan, my kids asked me "Is this the end of the world?"

They have heard that the world will end in December of this year.  They are wondering if this is just the beginning of weather events that will build to a cataclysmic end of life on earth.  Kids will believe anything.

As I sit in my warm home while ice and sleet are pinging against my windows, thrown by 50mph wind gusts, my heart and prayers go out to the people on the East coast, the people in the mountains, and all those affected by this massive storm system.  I am safe, my friends and family are safe, and I am grateful to live in a region that is pretty unaffected by the weather.  Michiganders know that if you don't like the weather here, wait five minutes, it will change.  But in my lifetime, I have never seen flooding, a tornado, or a blizzard.  We don't experience earthquakes or hurricanes.  We have four beautiful seasons, and the worst weather event we ever see is an occasional ice storm in winter.  We always have ample warning, and if we do get an ice storm, we hunker down for a day in our homes, because the next day it will either rain or snow and the ice is gone.  This is Michigan, after all.

When I was a kid, news of a coming storm was a source of excitement.  Again, we never experienced deadly or catastrophic weather, just summer thunderstorms and winter snow, so I cannot speak from experience regarding severe weather, and certainly do not speak for the people who have lived through it.  But a forecast of 12 or more inches was a reason to celebrate.  No school tomorrow!  These days, my kids get the day off if we get 2 inches or more of fluffy white stuff, which I find utterly ridiculous.  Two years ago, the IIC (Idiots In Charge) cancelled school one day in January, and it was 40F degrees and raining all day.  So now our kids miss school for a chilly rain?  Puhlease.  I walked to school on days when there was 8 inches of snow falling and the winds made the air feel like 10 degrees.  Below zero.  If a Spring thunderstorm blasted in, we stayed at our desks and kept learning.  When Indian Summer hit in October and it was 90 degrees outside, we didn't complain because there was no air conditioning in our school, we rejoiced because it meant one more time through the sprinkler when we got home.

It wasn't just that we were hardy.  We embraced the weather as kids.  Whatever season, whatever precipitation, whatever temperature, we found something about it to celebrate and get outside.  Thunderstorms meant sitting on the covered porch to count the seconds between a lightening strike and the big boom that followed.  Snowstorms meant ice igloos, snowmen, and frozen toes.  I still remember limping into the house for dinner because my toes were so cold and red I couldn't walk on them, and the feeling of taking off my snowboots and the pain that ensued as my feet warmed up.  It was a good pain, the pain of knowing I didn't stop playing for a minor inconvenience like frostbite.

So is the world ending?  No.  It's just weather.  Deal with it.

I saw the news reports from Hurricane Katrina, from the Tsunami, from the raging fires out west.  I know people lost their belongings, their homes, and tragically, sometimes their lives.  The elements give us what we need to live, and sometimes they take life.  But the weather is no more to fear or blame than cancer, or driving in a car, or even sleeping in your home at night.  Every day, everywhere we go, we don't know what unforeseen circumstance can take our lives.  A criminal with a gun, a drunk driver, a silent tumor, a rotting tree that falls in the road just as you're driving under it.  Each morning when we wake up, we don't know what will happen.  That's the joy in living.  Some things we avoid, some things we create, some things we just deal with.

I have taught my kids to be safe in inclement weather.  Don't stand under a tree when its lightning, don't drive on icy roads, wear warm clothing when its cold.  But still my kids worry.  It's always the what if question.  What if a bad man breaks into our house?  What if a tornado rips up our home?  What if we are in a car accident?

My kids have fears that I didn't have as a child.  As their mom, I have the same fears they do, but because I am an adult, I have tools for coping and not letting fear govern my life.  But my kids worry more than they should.  It bothers me that they are so exposed to the news that the scary stories they hear have so much power over their thoughts.  It makes me sad that children have to cope with the reality of life long before they are emotionally capable.  We don't shield our children, we don't protect them.  They hear it all, they see it all, they know it all.  They just don't understand any of it.

I don't have an answer.  It is what it is, and I can't change society or the media or the world.  I simply keep focusing on the positive, and hoping my kids will learn from my example.  There is beauty and goodness in our lives everyday if we will look for the quiet examples set for us.  If a teacher takes an extra five minutes to help a child, it won't make the news, but it can make that child's day.  If a stranger holds a door and smiles, that simple act of kindness whispers "You matter to me".  On a day like today, when the cold wind is blowing ice and snow against my face, I am happy to be home and safe.

As I watched video footage of all the people stuck in airports today, my first reaction was "how awful!".  Those poor people can't shower, have to sleep on hard floors, and are stuck right where they are with no choice.  But then I think, they are not in the storm.  They are safe.  For the moment, that's all that matters.

I pray for the people that are stuck in the middle of the perfect storm today.  I feel for their loss, and the devastation of their communities.  But I rejoice for the millions that are safe in the midst of the storm, for the people who made it to a shelter or simply went somewhere else until its over.  I am grateful that those people will find the strength to go on and rebuild their lives, with our help.  I am confident that our country will come together and do what we can as people to get the victims of the storm back to their lives.

So when my kids ask if this is the end of the world, I tell them no.  It's the beginning of an opportunity to be grateful, and to help.  The weather destroys, and we rebuild. Human nature is to take what comes, deal with it and go on.  People become stronger, they survive, they see the good in the middle of the devastation.  My kids have fears I never had, but they also have the chance to be stronger than I ever was.  See?  There's good in everything!