When I was a small child about ten years old, my town had a terrible flood. We lived on a peninsula between a lake and swamp. The lake was lowered every year in the fall through a canal lock system, but this year the Highway Authority had taken over responsibility. Needless to say, the Highway Authority miscalculated how much they needed to lower the lake. Combined with their error was a nasty blizzard that winter. As rains came in the spring, I stood at the window watching the waters break over the seawalls and then the sandbags, and make their way up to our lawn. Eventually, the streets had water several feet deep. You could see fish swimming across the street, including long-nosed pike.
We were lucky. Our house was on a hill. At some point, my Dad suited me up in waders and told me that we needed to help build up the sandbag walls for our neighbors. I put on the rubber legs, pulling the straps over my chest with the duty of a soldier. I had long legs and as I walked out to the canoe awaiting to transport me, I thought I was tall enough to take one more step in the waters before climbing into the boat.
I miscalculated the dip between the drive and the road.
Water filled my waders. I still remember that panic. I started to scramble. It felt like I was being tied down with cement blocks.
I remember my Dad's voiced muffled by the rush of blood pulsing in my ears, until at last I could hear him say, "stay calm. Stand up!" Sure enough I could stand, water up to my chest. I had enough room to wriggle free from the waders and climb- albeit drenched like a wild-eyed cat- into the boat.
I've been thinking about the poem penned by Kent Keith, whose first line is "People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway." I don't know about you friends, but post-election I've been building my own "anyway" list to help remind myself when the water starts to pour over the top of the waders that there is a paradox to this time if we can listen past our panic.
So a few things I've heard:
It will feel as if there is too much to feel, too much to offer compassion for, too many people to protect and love; love and protect them anyway.
If you break silence and speak out or if you are bold or if you do something that shines, even your allies may come for you; shine on anyway.
You will try and fail; try anyway.
Your greatest heroes will disappoint you, especially up close, get close anyway.
You will be confused and unsure of what to do next, do what is next anyway.
You will say the wrong thing and you may look back horrified at something you once did, speak anyway.
There will be kindness and joy in the midst of pain, feel it all anyway you can.