Lessons from Hurricane Michael
- By: Candace McKibben
I am a native Floridian and grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. The only hurricane I remember from my childhood is Hurricane Dora, when I was nine years old. Like Michael, it was famous for its storm surge causing excessive flooding. I recall reading A Wrinkle in Time by the dim light coming into our home from the outside as I rested on the top bunk. As I remember, the windows were opened to allow some air in and my little brother was on the bottom bunk. We watched as items floated past our home which was located near a tributary of the St. John’s River and impacted by the tides as well as the storm surge.
I also remember that time seemed to stand still during the days of the hurricane and its aftermath. In seminary we learned about the Greeks having a more precise language than English. They spoke of four different types of love, for example, and three different types of time. They had a word for time that was chronological, “chronos,” and a word for time that was lengthy, “aeon,” and a word for time that seemed timeless, ripe with opportunity, “kairos.” This time on the bunk bed reading a good book and watching the neighbor’s items float by while experiencing a reprieve from school and church and other responsibilities seemed like timeless time.
And so it seemed this week we have experienced all of these times as we waited the approach of a storm that less than a week earlier was not even on the radar of concern. All over town people were making important decisions about closings, cancellations and rescheduling of events. What before the storm was a priority, in light of the storm was not. What was not so important before the storm became crucial. Gas lines were long and contentious and grocery stores were a challenge as well. Officials were warning about the potential intensity of a storm that at the time was not yet named and some felt the alarm was unwarranted. Even as many went to bed on Tuesday evening, awaiting the arrival of a category 2 storm, others in our community were working hard to be sure we could keep as many people safe as possible if the worst should happen.
I am so moved by the staff of our Big Bend Hospice Dozier House who are working multiple shifts to be sure that our patients and families are well-cared for. I am grateful to the staff of Westminster Oaks, where my mother lives, who are doing all in their power to ensure that residents and patients are safe and have all their needs met. I am especially grateful to the staff caring for those on the memory unit where my mom resides who are unsure just what is happening and why the hallway is so dark as it runs on generated power. I think of staff in hospitals and residential facilities across the Panhandle who are working long hours to support those they serve while their own families may also be in need.
I think of the many shelters opened in our area and across the Big Bend staffed by hundreds of volunteers to support those who evacuated. I feel gratitude for the utilities teams that are out working around the clock to restore power, and pray patience for those of us who are waiting for their work to be completed. I am grateful for first responders who are working to rescue desperate persons. As these helpers live in chronological time that seems to have no end, others of us are in a forced mode of slowing down, in what feels more like kairos or timeless time.
Three significant events that were on my calendar for the week were suddenly rescheduled. I was able to spend more unhurried time with my mother and with my husband than I have in months. It was amazing to be able to sit on my back porch and watch the trees bend and sway like graceful dancers in one moment and like whirling dervishes in the next. While a bit unnerving, it was remarkable to see the intensity of the rain and the rain and wind together and contemplate the power of nature. It was so beautiful to hear from friends I had not been in contact with for a while as they reached out with concerned text messages. It was somehow quaint to search my bookshelves for the right book to help me locate the Greek words for time rather than search by internet as I completed this column by candlelight.
I want to learn from Hurricane Michael the value of slowing down enough to experience kairos, timeless time, when we can catch a glimpse of life around us and within us. I also pray for those who have suffered much in the most devastating hurricane to hit the Panhandle in recorded history. May we all find the time and will to help these neighbors.