In what might be the biggest understatement I can muster, it’s been a hell of a couple weeks here in British Columbia, Canada. We received a month’s worth of rain in forty-eight hours. Levees broke as creeks turned into rivers, and rivers became lakes. Cities had to be evacuated, lives were lost, and so were homes. Roads and bridges were washed away or crushed under mudslides. All major highways and roadways to the Lower Mainland were obliterated.
Most of the land underwater is farm country so, crops have been destroyed, and thousands of livestock lost their lives. Farmers have not only lost their homes, but they’ve had to watch their livelihoods disappear as well. The level of devastation on all fronts has been overwhelming, to say the least.
I’ve been fortunate, and so have the people I love. I live high enough to avoid the rising water and low enough to miss the mudslides. It’s a bit of a sweet spot in the middle of the chaos. My brother’s basement was flooded, but the damage was minimal, thank God.
And thank God, we all still have our homes and our lives. We will be okay albeit, a bit uncomfortable for a while. How can we complain about that? It’s a silly thing to whine about, given the scope of what’s happened. So what if we have to do without a few things for a couple of weeks?
Some of our food is being rationed, and so is gas. We’re going to have to make do with less until the supply chains have been restored or reworked. I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t make me a bit anxious. Of course it does! What if we run out of supplies before they reopen the roads? What do we do if…
But it’s not good for my mental health to stay in that frame of mind for more than a few minutes. Right now, as I’m writing this, my car is fuelled up, and there’s food in my fridge. My home is dry, my loved ones are safe, and perhaps I should focus on gratitude instead of my worries.
Okay, that sounds a little too much like a motivational poster in an elevator. It’s not wrong, but it’s not helpful. It’s the kind of thing that’s easy to say but incredibly difficult to put into practice. When we read the words, we nod and mumble something about how wise they are. Do we put them into practice?
How long is the elevator ride? I think I can make it work for a couple of floors, but I’m easily distracted. Now, I’m wondering how many elevators break down every year? What are the odds the wires snap, and this becomes the worst ride I’ve ever been on? Huh, maybe I should’ve taken the stairs.
Well, that didn’t last long.
I couldn’t start my gratitude list before the worries came back with a vengeance. Is something fundamentally wrong with me? Has my programming degraded? Do you think my brain needs a software update? If you said all of the above? Ha, ha, you’ve got a sense of humour. We can be friends.
It’s easy for me to spend a lot of time in the negative headspace. I think it’s fair to say that it’s a natural response. I’d go one step further and call it a very human reaction to an overwhelming situation. Especially after the last two years of living in a twisted apocalyptic movie marathon staring what’s his name. Big guy. No hair. Very strong. He’s always in those kinds of movies and he’s very good at it.
I love a fictitious disaster flick. I don’t enjoy living through one. That’s not an unreasonable statement, is it?
Global pandoodle (give it a cute name, and it doesn’t sound that bad), forest fires, and now floods. I just…What’s next? Never mind, I don’t wanna know, and I don’t want The Great and Powerful It to take anything I say as a challenge. I know you can do it. I’m not doubting your power. You have nothing to prove, so for the love of all that is half decent, keep the flying monkey bugs in their cages.
I don’t know if those are real or not, but the thought made me shiver. Ew. No. I can’t…eurgh.
Despite it being a natural response to a natural disaster, perhaps stewing in this negative headspace isn’t helpful. I’m not saying I’m going to abandon it and never return. No, I’m not that evolved. However, a vacation from the worries wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Reality kind of sucks right now, and my inner cynic is pitching a fit. It feeds off of this kind of thing, you know. It just munches down on the fear and anxiety. It engorges itself until it’s rolling around the floor like an overstuffed gremlin.
Sleep it off, you little bastard. It’s time for the rainbows and unicorns to prance across the stage. Showtime! Let the sunshine in like a spotlight of happiness. Cue the music and all the cheerful crap. I mean, uh, smiley, gleeful stuff. Listen, I’m trying, but I’m a walking, talking work in progress sign.
While my personal life has been one disaster after another, surprisingly, this is the first time I’ve lived in an actual disaster zone. The military has been deployed to help rescue and repair. Helicopters are flying overhead on a continuous rotation. It’s the real deal if the tv people haven’t been lying to me all these years.
Everything I know about this sort of thing I learned from movies. It’s the kind of thing that happens in fiction or on the news, you know? I sit at home, curled up under a blanket, the fire blazing, and watch it play out on the other side of the world. That’s where it happens, somewhere else, so I silently send my prayers and well wishes.
You know the drill.
This isn’t the sort of thing that happens in my province or ten minutes from my home. The fact that it’s happening here is surreal. It’s hard to believe that this is real life. I’m watching things from a window and not through a computer screen. I had to mark myself as safe on Facebook, and people are sending us their thoughts and prayers.
Just about everyone I’ve run into over the last few weeks has asked, Can you believe this? No, no, I can’t. It doesn’t seem real, but it is, and my brain is having a hard time processing it. Is that weird? Probably, but I’m not the only one who’s experiencing this peculiar phenomenon.
Ah, denial, how ya doing?
Thankfully, at the peak of the storm, some people didn’t experience the shroud of disbelief. They leapt into action without hesitation. They did whatever job needed doing, and then they did more. Where would we be without the helpers of the world?
Isn’t that what they say? In a crisis, look for the helpers and the problem solvers. The selfless responders and the caregivers that seem to come out of the shadows. They don’t just step into the spotlight. They become the brightness and the guiding light. They are the hope-bringers when everything seems so overwhelmingly hopeless.
Hundreds of people worked through the night to protect the pump station that was working at max capacity. If it failed? A whole city would be lost, and with it, so many lives would have been swept away. These people, all volunteers, sandbagged and built a barrier. They kept the water from overwhelming the station, and they saved countless lives and homes.
Hundreds of people were travelling along our highways when floods and mudslides cut off their route. They had to spend a couple of nights in their cars before being rescued. They were taken to the nearest towns, but those towns are now cut off from supplies as well.
How do you feed all of those people when you can’t get food in? Well, a group of kind souls got together and made over 3000 meals. They put their money together and rented private helicopters to fly food out to anyone who needed it.
A restaurant out in Hope (Hope Pizza Place), a town that took in most of the stranded, used all of their resources to feed everyone they could. When people offered to pay? They refused because this wasn’t about making a profit. It was the purest form of kindness that expects, needs, absolutely nothing in return.
Neighbour helping neighbour. Stranger helping stranger. Those that had plenty gave freely to those that had lost everything. It all serves to prove a valuable lesson. When the water rises, so do we. The best of humanity comes out, and we can overpower the negatives.
I’m someone who naturally leans into those negatives. I get lost in them, and they can be suffocating. It gets to the point where I start to wonder if there’s any hope for our species. No, seriously, I’m asking: Is there?
Then a catastrophe landed in my backyard, and you showed me a beautiful reality. You showed up, shone brightly, and your true nature was on full display. Kindness, compassion, selflessness, and decency were instinctual. It wasn’t a thought or a sacrifice. You just acted, and it was an incredible thing.
I’m in awe of you and everyone who always shows up in the best possible way. You prove that there’s more good in the world than we realize. You drown out the critics and the naysayers. Your actions speak louder than any word ever could.
For this moment, I’m stepping out of the dark headspace and embracing gratitude. I don’t care if it reads like one of those posters because even the cheesiness can’t take away from a simple truth: Kindness always wins so, always choose kindness.
The water may have risen, but we will always rise above it. A big thank you goes out to all the helpers, problem solvers, and caregivers. You’re hero’s and legends, every one of you.