Wednesday, February 24, 2016
My phone blared at me with the warning from the National Weather Service. A tornado warning.
I looked outside the window; things didn't look too bad to me. So I turned on the TV and sat watching, until finally the weather announcer said, "If you're in Durham County, you need to take shelter immediately."
Then came the familiar spiel about getting to the lowest level of my home or into an interior room with no windows. "Put as much distance as possible between yourself and the outside," the announcer urged.
I heard him say that, but I didn't move. I liked being right there by the TV, listening to the news and able to see out the window. Then
My cell phone blared at me again. Another Tornado Warning, this one coming before the last one was lifted.
I finally got myself and my dogs into the basement.
As I sat in the basement, I wondered why it took me so long to heed the warning. After all, I have a perfectly good basement. Getting down here was no trouble. Why would I sit idly when I was being urged to take heed?
Am I so inured to potential danger that I'm unconcerned that it could be coming my way?
My thoughts turned to an episode last summer, when my family and I were in the Denver airport. As we sat on the concourse and awaited our flight, a funnel cloud was spotted very close by. Warning klaxons began sounding and didn't let up. Passengers and staff looked at one another and wondered what to do. Finally, airport management announced that we had no choice: we had to take shelter. We all moved into the stairwells and proceeded down, down, down to the basement of the airport, a shadowy world of reinforced concrete. Inevitably, some of the passengers began griping about the inconvenience.
Finally the all-clear sounded and we were allowed out of the basement and back onto the concourses. By this time our flights were considerably delayed, so a great deal of griping and complaining ensued. People were irritated that they had missed connections. We were all safe and sound and fairly comfortable, but people were mad at the inconvenience caused by the cautionary move to safety.
As I sat and listened to griping, I found myself thinking how people would have been singing a much different tune if we'd come out of the basement to a disaster site. If the tornado had touched down while we'd all been hunkered down safely in the basement, would we have emerged with irritation at a little delay in our plans?
I don't think so.
I contrast that scene in my memory with what I saw as I watched the news after my afternoon in our basement. The news crews showed houses damaged and absolutely destroyed by tornadoes. Over and over came such comments as "A mother and two children were in the basement," or "The elderly lady of the house was in the bathtub, covered in a blanket." In each case, there was rejoicing that lives were saved, even when material possessions were destroyed. In no case was there griping and complaining reported; just gratitude.
I wonder how often my actions and reactions in the course of a day come because I feel safe and sound in my little corner, unconcerned about the perils of the world. Would my attitude be different if one of those dangers came close to home every day? Would I pray more? Would I complain less? Would I care less about my small comforts and more for my neighbors and their well-being? Would I dare to share the light God has given me?
God help me. I pray that I don't need a disaster to force me to be the person God is calling me to be in a dark and perilous world.