State of Emergency

For those of you not following the news, there is currently a state of emergency in Colorado. The areas around Boulder have been flooding for days. Unlike most disasters that I just casually read about on my AOL home page in the morning, this one is personal to me. My sister lives in one of the communities most affected.

I haven’t spoken to her as there’s been no phone service for the last few days, but she has been able to communicate by e-mail and on Facebook so I know details about what is going on with the people in her area. She is safe but many of her friends have been evacuated and some have lost their homes.

Her community is devastated, but as is true in any tragedy, there are glimmers of true beauty. The beauty of people reaching out to help others who need assistance, of friends opening up their homes to those who are suddenly homeless, and of ordinary citizens setting up ropes across raging rivers to evacuate people they don’t even know. There are heroes among us. Heroes who truly are, as they ask every exit row passenger on every airline, ready and willing to help in case of an emergency.

What strikes me the most deeply, however is the fact that my sister is close to several people who’ve lost their homes. One of them is staying with her. He went to check on his house after the worst of the storm to find his house completely gone. His entire house, with all his worldly possessions, gone. The only thing remaining was his kitchen sink buried in mud.

Another friend was rescued, carried by ropes across the river by volunteers after she lost her house. She salvaged her wedding album and her dogs. Everything else she owned is gone.

I don’t know that I can imagine what either of my sister’s friends must be feeling. This has prompted me to look around my own house and wonder what is important to me. What would I try to take with me if a tsunami was headed for LA? I know it wouldn’t be the original fashion illustrations I bought in Paris or the incredibly rare Givenchy monograph I proudly display on my bookshelf.

What do other people save in instances like these? What do they grab just before the tornado or the hurricane hits? They save photo albums. They save mementos from their past. They save things that will remind them of the relationships they’ve cultivated in their lives.

I spoke to my father the other day; he’s been in close communication with my sister. He talked about a time when he got stuck camping with my mother and my baby sister in severe weather. They were terrified that they wouldn’t make it. When the storm cleared they all came out of the trailer and breathed a sigh of relief, grateful for the sun peeking through the clouds. My father wasn’t concerned with the damage to the trailer or the vehicle. He realized in that moment that the only really important things in his life, his wife and his daughter, had been spared.

The relationships we have with other people are what really define us. We are not our circumstances- the house we live in, the job we hold, the clothes we wear every day. We show who we really are by the way we treat other people, the ways in which we share our hearts with others, and the love we bring into the world.

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