Tonight, we found out that our dear friend's neighborhood was critically impacted in tornadoes from the remnants of Hurricane Ida. Our friends are fine. Their home is fine. Their neighbors' homes are not fine.
It is hard to fathom how in a flash and swirl of angry wind an entire home could be leveled. It is awful.
Chloe heard me talking about it and got really upset. She said she was so worried about everyone.
It's hard when bad things happen to other people. It's hard not to get really upset. And it's hard to figure out how to act and what to do.
Right now, from our shore house, there is nothing I can really do. And even if we were nearby, it would not be appropriate to race over and try to led a hand to the emergency workers or to get in the way of storm clean-up. We can certainly pray; but even the most devout of us know that sometimes simply "keeping everyone in our prayers," does not feel like enough.
What do you do when bad things happen to other people? What's the right thing?
I remember times when bad things happened to us. People who could stepped up and did things. We had meals and offers and asks. Sometimes, I found the asks of how to help to be overwhelming; but often I had a list of needs and it was such a joy to have the many times and talents and capabilities to lean on.
Then there were people who became as worked up as we were and the following may sound monstrous, but frankly, it felt inappropriate. It felt like our pain was being hijacked and the energy we needed the universe to devote to our healing was being stolen by an adjacent party.
There were also friends were afraid to tell us about their problems. Work colleagues never mentioned any fires in the office. The world tried to shelter us; but then in turn they excluded us.
And then there were the people who never asked, never talked about it and just waited out the immediate pain and then moved on with us if nothing ever happened. Or worst, moved on without us because it did happen and the emotional lift was too heavy.
I don't begrudge any of these people their reactions to our trauma; because it is hard to know the right thing to do.
And poor Chloe, she wants to help, always. It is really easy, sometimes, to take on other people's problems and make them our own, even if it is just mentally. And then on the flip side, it is really easy to completely ignore other people's problems because we've got our own.
What do when bad things happen to other people--well the answer to that lies in the middle, I think.
I told Chloe tonight that everyone was okay and yes, property was damaged and it is awful; but we just have to pray and remember to check in. We cannot emotionally afford to get upset or have anxiety over this, because it does not belong to us. And if we take this problem on as our own, then we won't have the energy to support our friends, who need our support to help their neighbors.
And truly, our time in trauma will always come. We cannot become people of all traumas around us. We won't have anything left at all.
When bad things happen to other people we simply have to be ready to receive the information and figure out how we can easily fit into the solution--maybe it is seeing an Amazon wishlist for refugees and being able to quickly order a few items, Maybe it is being available to text or chat when someone needs you.
Maybe there is actually nothing for you to do except make a mental note to check back. Sometimes nothing opens the door for other people to step in and help--because they are in the right place and have the right skills.
When bad things happen to other people, the best we can do sometimes is pray--pray for miracles and resolutions and pray that we do not forget the struggles of others--so that when the time comes, we can see how we can truly help.
My prayers tonight for all the families, everywhere, affected by Hurricane Ida. And special prayers to my friend and her family, as they figure out the best way to help their neighbors and to recover from a terrifying night.