“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news,
my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.
You will always find people who are helping.’ ”
~ Fred Rogers, a.k.a. Mr. Rogers
How do you even begin to write about a week like we just had? Explosions, fires, and floods. Broken glass and splattered blood. Lost limbs and lost lives. The death of dreams and loss of innocence.
I know two people who were running the Boston Marathon. Both are okay. But one of them saw the carnage—so I know he will never really be “okay” ever again.
And Tuesday was Mary Scrugg’s birthday. Two years after her death, I’m still missing Mary. (You can find my previous post about Mary here).
And then the rains came. On Thursday, when I called my brother Joe, he was watching coverage of the explosion at the fertilizer plant in West, Texas. I told him my entire basement, including my office, had six inches of water.
“Sheila, it is just water. Remember, my house burned down in 2006,” Joe said. Joe is recovering from emergency surgery he had April 11th to repair a ruptured aneurysm on his abdominal aorta. He almost died.
Talk about putting things in perspective—Holy Crap! But while I know it’s just water (thank God it wasn’t sewage!), it still sucks to have to clean your basement of six inches of water. And since the pilot light on the hot water tank was under water, I couldn’t take a hot bath until Saturday evening!
So, is it okay to lament water in the basement and lost days when others have lost their limbs or their loved ones or their lives? Is it okay for us to sweat the small stuff—when it is our small stuff? When I was an intern I had a supervisor who used to say, “Your cancer, my hangnail!”
I am forever telling my patients that our thoughts and feelings aren’t right or wrong, they just are. It’s our actions we are responsible for.
On a table in my office I have a small apothecary jar half-full of broken glass from the windshield of my Toyota Celica—the one totaled in the crash that almost totaled me. I keep it to remind myself to be grateful. I also keep it as a reminder that it’s okay to have mixed feelings—to be grateful to be alive and still be mad as hell to have had an accident that changed my life forever. (Oddly enough, I can’t remember ever feeling anger toward the young driver who caused the accident—I was just mad at God and circumstances!)
Yes, there are many people in much worse shape after this past week than I am and I still feel like I’ve been run over by a truck. I am heartbroken from all the tragedies that have taken place and I am emotionally and physically weary.
Fred Rogers’s mother was right when she told him, “Look for the helpers.” Our feelings are what they are, but we can choose our actions. This week’s news coverage was full of helpers—ordinary people who became heroes through taking extraordinary actions. And I also had helpers—who loaned me a pump, vacuumed up water and relit my water heater, offered me a shower, offered whatever I needed.
Yes, I had a terrible week and yes I am terrifically grateful—for my helpers—and that it was only water.
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April 22, 2013 @ 11:30 AM
Thank you Sheila. I appreciate your thoughts ! You are a beautiful writer and one who makes me think! Take care ! Mary
April 22, 2013 @ 2:19 PM
Sheila, thanks for this. It’s good to remember there is always someone who has it worse than we do. I’m glad your brother is recovering.
And even though it wasn’t a fire… sometimes a flood is like a fire in its destruction! What wonderful helpers you had. Take care!
April 30, 2013 @ 3:40 PM
There’s a lot to take from this post- thank you!
I know from the attacks of July 7, 2007 in London I will never be the same person, and there are days I am very angry because of that. In particular days like the events in Boston… I cried, not like others cried, yes I sorrowed for those who lost loved ones, limbs, or their lives- I cried for the other people- the others whose lives will never be the same. They are often overlooked, but also victims too. Thank you for acknowledging them.