Tornado Lessons

by | Apr 10, 2020

Bird Hills Nature Area, Ann Arbor

I do more texting now because of the coronavirus.  I like sending and receiving texts.  They feel like mini-postcards with more immediate gratification than traditional ones.  I received a text the other day from a high school friend I hadn’t heard from in a while.  He texted to remind me that 44 years ago we were together the night my house was hit by a tornado.  The pandemic strangeness apparently reminded him of the strangeness of that tornado.  What made the tornado seem even stranger was that there were no Internet or cell phones to help us understand what was happening. There happened to be a lot in the news about terrorism at the time, so we concluded while turning on to my street that terrorists must have attacked our subdivision.  I remember my friend turning to me and saying, “Dude, I can’t believe someone just bombed our neighborhood!”

I try to recall if there are any lessons from the tornado that might be applicable to our current pandemic challenges.  One thing I learned from the tornado is that there not only can be calm before a storm, but there also can be calm after it.  There definitely was greater calm in my life in the years after the tornado.  My tornado experience was unusual in that I felt grateful after it destroyed our house—because my parents were going through a divorce and it was miserable living together under the same roof.  Fast forward to the tornado and there was no longer a roof for us to live under.  A photographer from my school newspaper came and took the coolest picture of the open sky from our bathroom.

One thing I try to keep in mind about uncertainty is that it’s uncertain, meaning that we don’t know how things are going to unfold.  Just because things might seem bad now, this doesn’t mean that they are going to stay bad or get worse.  Some people’s lives are going to improve during these pandemic times.  Some people are going to fall in love.  I happened to fall in love for the first time after the tornado, which changed my whole outlook on life.  Love always seems to change our outlook, doesn’t it?  I don’t mean only romantic love, even though that usually gets top billing.  I also mean the spiritual love you can feel towards a neighbor or even a stranger.  I felt love this afternoon for a friend who dropped off a high-tech mask and some rubber gloves go keep me safe.  My N95 mask seemed like a new BMW, which left me feeling bad for all of the people with makeshift masks or no masks at all.  I guess that’s why I drive an ancient and indestructible SUV that suits my dog and me just fine.

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