This has been a difficult week to watch the news. Most weeks aren’t easy, but this is the kind of week when we need to have a box of tissues nearby. The devastation in Texas has been heart-breaking, and for those of us many miles away, hard to fathom. What’s different from other news stories is that we don’t have someone we can be mad at, or to blame. We can’t focus our anger at a crazy Korean dictator, or at our own politicians – at least not for this issue. This is a natural disaster. It does no good to get mad at the weather, it is out of our control.
So instead we feel sad, we feel scared, we feel anxious, and in a true example of decent humanity, we all want to help. In the meantime, all we can do is watch and hope and pray that there are not more casualties, and cheer for every successful rescue of both humans and animals.
We real women make a daily habit out of worrying. Even when there is not a natural disaster happening, we worry that there could be one. We think about the “what if’s”. And when we see our fears come true for others, that worrying and “what if-ing” gets even stronger. What if massive flooding happened to us, or to our loved ones? We watch interviews with those who are going through it, and palpably feel their relief when they and their family members are safe. Because that’s the most important thing, of course, is personal safety of loved ones. I saw one touching image of a 90-year old woman praying with her rescuers. We repeat that mantra of “things can be replaced, people can’t.” But perhaps that is easy for those of us who are at a distance, to say. We didn’t just watch all of our belongings literally get washed out of our house. We don’t have over four feet of water filling our homes. Yes, they may physically be safe, but many have lost everything else. That’s not ok.
I, like many other sometimes irrationally concerned real women, have often thought about what I would do if we were told that something disastrous was coming… a flood, a wild fire, a hurricane. If we were told to evacuate, or we were told we had only a few minutes or hours to somehow prepare or pack up our essentials, what would we take with us? What truly would be the most important “things” to carry with us if we could? This is assuming, of course, that the members of our household are with us and safe. What of the “stuff” in our lives?
I have from time to time half joked with my husband and son that if God Forbid anything should happen to the house, they are to grab all of my scrapbooks and take them with us. Unless we have the time and space to fill our cargo van, this is not a realistic request in times of emergency. But those really are part of what I’d want to keep with me, because they contain photos and memories. I suppose more realistically I’d grab my purse and wallet, my laptop, a couple changes of clothing. medications and food and water. Beyond that, what really do we need? My cool shoes? Don’t think so. My jewelry? Even though I have some nice pieces, the only ones I’d really miss are the ones that mean something because of who gave them to me. Small appliances? Not helpful to carry around.
Ironically, this week we are working on cleaning out our house to have a tag sale this weekend. I’ve been repeatedly asking myself and my guys “do we need this?” I had grown tired of clutter, and I felt the need to get the proverbial shovel out. It amazes me the amount of stuff we hang on to, for virtually no reason at all. Things we haven’t used or touched, things we have multiples of, things we think we may “some day” use yet haven’t needed in at least three years. The biggest challenge with the clean out, of course, are the things to which we are somehow emotionally tied. I have bins in my basement of memorabilia of when my son was a baby and little boy. Clothing, toys, stuffed animals, books… carefully selected and stored away. Why? Because I can’t let go of them. They represent too many memories. I tell myself that some day he may use them for his own children. But the realistic side of me knows that likely won’t be the case, he’ll get all new stuff for my grandchild. Or there’s the bin of antique silver and china handed down to me from my mother or grandmother or aunt. Again, I doubt my son will ever use any of it, but still it sits tucked away in my basement.
Some things are easier to put in the tag sale piles – like do we really need a back-up toaster? Or a dozen mis-matched old cups and mugs? What about old movie posters, board games and extra holiday decorations? Nope, nope and nope. None of those items are making it on my keep list, nor would they in any way be on my emergency-take-it-with you list.
However, after the past few days, I am looking at some of my stuff through a new lens. I’m realizing that some of what I currently consider to be junk, could be useful to someone who has just lost everything. And so a new pile is emerging: items to be donated. Because even though people can’t be replaced and items can, sometimes in life we need help from others to make the replacements happen when we need them most.