As the media whipped the entire East Coast into an anxiety-fueled frenzy over Hurricane Irene, I couldn’t help but wonder how the readers of this blog might react. If it was anything like most of the folks in downtown Washington D.C., they reacted with near-panic. Everyone ran around on Friday talking about bottled water, flashlights, sandbags and how bad the bad hurricane would really be.
It was strange, though, because they didn’t talk about how frightened they were to start up their minivans or drive home in their cars – or, for that matter, about how they were scared to catch a respiratory infection or be bitten by a dog. But in fact, you are much more likely to be harmed by driving or dogs or any of a thousand other things than to be hurt in a hurricane. Make no mistake: these are big storms and do real damage (I am from Louisiana and helped my mother dig out of her wrecked house after Hurricane Katrina, so I can attest to that.). But a healthy dose of perspective is in order. Prudence, yes. Panic, no.
Strange as it sounds, we might look on these kinds of events as not just a threat but an opportunity. Remaining holed up inside our houses with the kids and no electricity for 24 or more hours hardly seems desirable at first glance. But glance again. In the midst of our 24/7 lives, filled with electronic distractions and pressures from all sides, the chances to take a deep breath are fewer and fewer. Take them when they come.
It is still hurricane season, and we may see a repeat of the Irene frenzy. If we don’t, surely an impending blizzard will disturb minds across America’s northern reaches. When the family is hunkered down together, take a moment to be grateful – for being alive at this moment in history, surrounded by those you love.
This, after all, is the great challenge of life. It is easy to be happy and relaxed for the week a year spent on the beach vacation. It’s not hard to beam at your children as you watch their dance recitals or cheer on their t-ball games. It’s no effort to remember the love you share with your spouse at your anniversary dinner. The real challenge is to be grateful for all we have, and for all we love, in the many pedestrian moments – when things aren’t perfect, when they aren’t glamorous, when we are going back and forth to work and school, fixing lunches and broken toys, surrounded by our same old bricks and mortar, being distracted and tired and excited and bored.
It’s important in all these moments to realize how privileged we are, and how wonderful are our families, and how much meaning infuses our lives. Sometimes we need to quiet the mind in order to absorb our greatest gifts. Maybe next time, with rain lashing the windows, the wind blowing, and CNN droning on, we can take a moment to ponder all that.