“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of others.”
~ Charles Dickens
This is not me. Yet it was, in a way. It’s “monsoon season” in the New Mexico High Desert. July is when we typically receive our annual rains. And last night, the skies opened. You do need to be careful what you wish for. We have endured a lengthy (meaning we haven’t had any precipitation to speak of since December) draught. So many conversations have been around the serious need for rain. But not the kind last night’s storm brought.
The signs came early. We were dining around 7:30p.m. when the restaurant lost power. The sheets of rain intensified and close to two inches fell in less than one hour. When you couple that amount of rain with bone dry, hard ground and drainage systems not accustomed to heavy downpours, you get flooding. Serious, fast-moving water, flooding.
I could go on about the weather’s impact. Yet I sense you get the picture. And soon it was dark outside, made even darker by the absence of traffic signals and street lights.
Having twice stalled while attempting to drive through small lakes in what was only a short while earlier, dry road, was sufficiently challenging. Intermittent loss of the car’s electrical systems added to the experience. Literally floating in three feet of water was almost surreal. And everyone crazy enough to be driving in these conditions was navigating the obstacle courses fairly well except, seemingly, us.
We managed to finally make it home, having rerouted our return twice.
But this story isn’t really about the weather, hazardous road conditions, or pushing stalled cars (attired in nice clothing) through bodies of water, it’s to illuminate the kindness of some people who go well out of their way to help others. It’s about humanity, once again, showing what we’re capable of in trying times.
There was Jordan, a fully clothed chef from the restaurant who, with reckless glee, was wading through hip high water to help stranded motorists. There was a Good Samaritan who, with a heavy chain, was pulling submerged autos out of another “lake” 20 miles later with his pickup truck. This after at least 20 cars successfully surfed past us to higher ground (a.k.a. visible roadway). Yet, not one even rolled down a window (it had stopped raining) to ask if we were okay or needed help.
It was a challenging evening, to say the least. But when this physically and emotionally exhausted being placed his head on a pillow, I found myself smiling as I recalled the kindness and generosity of a few caring people. And I gave thanks for them.
However, the story doesn’t end there. Today, neighborhood salvage efforts beckoned. And for 7.5 hours, eight of us (and a Bobcat) shoveled and removed heavy muck and sand that had oozed (and in some cases, forced its way) into people’s garages and homes.
Today’s work was Herculean. I know the Tylenol that I’ll swallow before retiring isn’t going to relieve the soreness. But I do know that when I rest my head on a pillow, I’m going to, again, reflect on the willing spirit and compassionate action that I witnessed today.
Life happens. So does the presence of amazing people.