tornado territory

Posted: May 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

Yesterday the tornado sirens went off in my city for quite awhile as torrential rains and high winds seemed to be competing to see which could get the most attention.  All this crazy spring weather with its tornado drama splashed across the news already had my attention – this, despite the fact that I don’t really *do* news, for the most part, because of its focus on hostilities, histrionics, and general unhelpful negativity, not to mention the problem that ranges from “bias” to “flat out lies.”  Still, through all my resistance and denial, tornadoes have a way of reaching my consciousness.

Working in senior housing has dramatically changed my perspective on emergencies like tornadoes.l  It is one thing to be afraid for oneself and the very few inhabitants of one’s single unit home dwelling.  It is, FOR ME, at least, a whole other thing to contemplate walking through that horror with 300 residents who are at that point in life when they are ready enough to ask for help that they have moved into a senior living facility.  You know?

I didn’t think about it much at first.  But when it dawned on me – EEK!  My first response, back in 2010, was to think maybe I should hurry up and look for another job – one where so many such vulnerable people weren’t depending on me for their safety and well-being.  I didn’t move on that impulse, but it as STRONG, for a long time, whenever the subject of disasters came up.

The thing is, most seniors can’t move quickly.  Navigating the halls at work means moving politely and patiently around parades of people using a wide spectrum of assistive devices, from canes to walkers to scooters.  Elevators aren’t just a nice convenience – for many seniors, they are a necessity – and of course elevator use is not an option when there is such a high risk of a power outage.  Some seniors are no longer able to think clearly, quickly.  Their physical vulnerability has made some of them less able to cope emotionally.  Not all.  Not most!  But some.  And I gotta think that “some” would feel like “a lot” when the stuff hit the fan. 

When I was doing licensed daycare in my home, we rode out some wicked tornadoes.  Once we spent an entire afternoon in my basement with the power out while trees were knocked down in my yard by the force of the storm.  We sat on folding chairs in a circle in the dark.  I gave each kid a portable flashlight, with permission to turn it on as much as they wanted.  I pulled a box of Mr. Freezie Pops out of the freezer and let them eat as many as they wanted.  We did stories and jokes and songs and games, and no one got hurt or even cried.  It was fine.

But little kids are easy.  You can pick them up and carry them down the steps.  They are mostly under the delusion that grownups know what we are doing and are in control, so they are relatively easily led.  As long as I didn’t freak out, they were likely to follow suit. 

I can’t carry any senior, ever.  They have enough life experience to suspect that I’m not the calm expert that I project myself to be.  MAYBE life has taught them how to cope, but then again maybe not.  Maybe age and/or experience has removed that coping ability. 

In the end, for me it boils down to trusting God.  I’m very clear that He called me to my job among the seniors, both the first time I started this job and also when I returned to it after having left.  If He called me to it, He has equipped me for it – sometimes via skills and knowledge, sometimes via helplessly and cluelessly holding on and trusting Him to work in me and through me. 

In the end, if I only ever do things I feel fully capable of doing, I will have lived a life both smaller and less meaningful than He intended for me.  At least that’s what I believe.  His best chances to grow us, to change us, to bless us, and to bring Himself glory – I think they ALL lie in the territory that is beyond our natural capabilities and inclinations. 

I want to continue to experience growth, change, lessing, and glimpses of His glory.  So I guess I’ll keep stepping out on these ledges and inviting Him to show up – even if one of those ledges might mean helping seniors through a real tornado. 

There’s really no better way to live.  At least that’s what I think. 


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