Surviving a Tsunami or anything

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artwork by Leigh Standley, Curly Girl Design

 On my way home from work Friday, I listened to a reporter interview a man in Japan who owns a Taxi Company.  His business suffered great losses during the recent earthquakes and tsunamis.  He described how his workers had scavenged packaged noodles floating in the flood waters from a nearby noodle plant and dried them out and stockpiled them and how they had been surviving by eating those noodles boiled in pots, outside, over fires built with wood scraps from the surrounding debris.  He spoke of the dedication of his workers who continued to show up for work, though they had family members still missing, to help rebuild.  He spoke of hope and of the future.  Amazing isn’t it?

I started thinking of people I know who have lived through great crisis and then continued living after the crisis is resolved, often starting over after a death or some other part of their life is changed forever.  From the outside looking in, in the moment, it seems like the crisis defines the person who is living through it.  As a witness, we feel helpless and apart, unable to even begin to grasp what strength and resolve must be necessary to even get through one day of their situation.  We sit in awe of those people and it is amazing how resilient a human being can be.

Then I remembered times in my life when things have been difficult.  I remembered people asking, “How do you do it?  How are you getting through?”  And, I remember saying, “I don’t know.   We just do what we need to do.”  That’s the trick, isn’t it?  To come out the other side, you just put one foot in front of the other and keep on going.

I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about a particular family who’s young son is suffering a terrible disease and how through it all, the mom and dad and extended family are making an effort to keep life as normal as possible for the other kids.  The mother sits for hours…days, bedside at the hospital.  She takes breaks to go to elementary school basketball games and birthday parties.  The contrast makes my head spin.  I overheard someone ask her, “How are YOU doing?”  “I’m fine,” she said.  “I’m just doing what I’ve got to do.”

How do we do it?  Picking up one foot and placing it on solid ground up ahead?  Survivors, those who do what has to be done, must have faith that tomorrow will bring another day.  Mothers of sick children, anyone who has suffered loss, and cab drivers in Japan, they all know that things will eventually change, and somehow, must hope for whatever future brings.  They put one foot in front of the other and they are amazing.

To listen to news story about Smile Smile Taxi, visit:  http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2011/03/18/pm-a-long-road-ahead-for-japanese-taxi-company/?sms_ss=twitter&at_xt=4d83d8b0d1051966,0

Dancing Gorillas…Why not?

Monday was Valentine’s Day, and as I traveled down U.S. 40 to pay a visit to our insurance agent, I saw evidence of the commercial nature of this bright holiday.  In the parking lot of a florist shop, across from a large shopping center, I saw a man-sized, hot pink gorilla.  Against the backdrop of the florist’s neon “open” sign, the pink gorilla man kicked his heels.  He danced a little “stir the pot”, and waved his arms at passing cars to, “come on in.”  I’m not really sure what a dancing gorilla has to do with Valentine’s Day, but the parking lot was full so it appeared to be working.

Along the way, I saw shops with flowers arranged to form giant red and pink hearts in windows and vans on exit ramps with 5-gallon buckets of flowers for the lover who can’t quite commit to parking the car and walking in.  There were chocolate shops, their windows filled with red foil wrapped cardboard hearts and sandwich boards adorned with heart-shaped Mylar balloons announcing the best deal around on a dozen roses.

The over-the-top ridiculous competition to get people to spend some cash on one day out of the year made me giggle and the gorilla made me laugh out loud.  But, one sight that day made my heart swell.

In a neighborhood that had seen better days; the clapboard buildings in need of paint and curbs still wearing weeds from last fall, I saw a young man, probably a teen.  He wore his hair shaved close to his head and jeans three sizes too big, belted mid-thigh.  He had the hood  of his over sized sweatshirt pulled over his head, but I could still see the firm set of his jaw as he walked down the street.  He had just left a florist shop with a large bundle of red roses wrapped in Valentine red tissue paper.  He carried the bundle in one hand, held out from his body as if it might burst into flames any moment.  Carrying flowers, it appears, didn’t fit his Eminem emulating image.

A crazy day of commercialism inspired this guy to step way outside his comfort zone and into a flower shop.  I hope he was on a personal mission that day, taking that bundle to someone he loves.  I like to imagine that the tough-looking young man I saw along US 40 on Valentine’s Day has a tender place in his heart.

Black Birds, White Sky

White Sky

My best friend from high school once described Hell as a calendar full of February’s; terrifying.  Up ahead, I see the full month of February blocking my way to springtime.  It’s ominous and dark up there and after surviving the chaos of November and December and the treacherous gray days of January, I’m not sure I even want to approach it.  There’s no way around it so, here I go…

I have a head cold and I’ve been in denial about it all week.  But today, it’s Saturday, and I am giving in to the luxury of  a loose schedule to really settle in to my misery.  The day matches the way I feel, cold and gray.  I look up from my lap full of Kleenex at the sound of angry black birds cawing from the snow-covered lawn.  I look up at the gloomy gray sky and realize, it’s not gray at all; it’s white.  It’s the same white as the snow on the ground, a mirror image separated by the golden stubble of corn stalks along the horizon.  In fact, it’s sort of beautiful.

Ok, I can do this.  All I have to do is find something beautiful to focus on each day and before long the red-winged blackbirds will be shrieking in the field grass and the robins will be pulling up worms.  In a few months, the poke week and fiddleheads will begin sending up shoots then I’ll find my asparagus, I hope.  Finding beauty in the gloom, it gives me hope, and hope will get me through.