I don’t know that this deserves a whole post, but it’s on my mind.
The sound of Klaxons, those warning sirens that wail what is surely the end of times, they make me jumpy. When the emergency alert takes over the TV I just can’t stop myself from running out to see what the trouble is.
A few times in my life I’ve had those sirens, those beeping signals, bring real and present danger. Once, I was only little, and my dear Aunt Peggy was babysitting for us when the sirens sounded. I’m not sure how but we all ended up not far away at my grandparents’ house. I remember sitting in the basement and Peggy braiding my hair while my grandpa declared himself not afraid of anything as he headed up the stairs and back to bed.
Another time I was a teenager, and the sky had looked funny all day. We went back to the house where we lived with our mom and the sirens sounded again. It was mass chaos, people running through the strangely warm rain to the shelter of the community center, all of us packed like sardines in the basement with hamster cages and crying kids.
And finally, just before we moved home we experienced a record-breaking snow storm. Casey woke me up that morning to tell me the power had gone out during his all night vigil, as he sat and listened to the wind whine and scream through the tall, tall trees that surrounded our house. I went out to the car and started her up and there was that emergency alert, which was actually followed by a message declaring Grand Traverse County a state of emergency and telling people to stay home.
We couldn’t though, not with very young children in a house without heat and ice hanging from the trees that leaned perilously close to the house and creaked and groaned and threatened.
We loaded up the kids and the dog, turned the heat up high in the Tahoe and set out to look for a hotel. Some had generators and were full, most did not and still were charging exorbitant prices for rooms. We ended up spending more than 4 hours in a nail biting drive downstate, where we spent the weekend in warmth and comfort at my dad’s.
I am a CAT adjuster, what this means is that I handle claims that are labeled as catastrophes. Floods? Got it. Tornadoes, hurricanes? I’m your girl.
I remember working late during Sandy, virtually on call, how a client had told me his friend was going to call me as soon as he could get to a phone, what area code the number would come from. I remember how I waited and waited for the call, and when the caller ID flashed across the TV with the area code I was on my feet and running. I call this client every year on our anniversary, and we chat and we check in.
The insurance commercials that feature disasters at once make me cry and want to be on the ground in these areas. I want to help. This is different that backing into someone in the supermarket, this is different from a cracked windshield or a deer hit. These kinds of claims are where I shine.
Today I talked to an old man who told me he was so sorry to call and report a claim, because this, in my experience, is the Southern Way. They apologize even when they don’t need to. He told me how all the sudden the water was rushing down the street, how it was at his door and through his door, how he was up the stairs and looking down on a nightmare as water eddied halfway up the stairs.
He told me how he was rescued from his upstairs window by a boat, he could not even see the tops of his cars because the water was so deep.
And then he asked me how the weather was where I am. And I was honest, I said, it’s cool today, and cloudy, but it hasn’t rained sir.
And then he cried and he said, it sure is a mess down here young lady.
We cried together for a minute, me whispering, I know it is, it’s going to be ok, we can help. And him just sobbing flat-out.
And I wish I could be on the ground there, I wish I could hold that old man and let him cry.
I wonder what it was like, that moment of realization, that the water is coming and there is no force on earth that can hold it back. I wonder what he grabbed as he ran for the stairs, photos? His wallet?
I’ve watched the news coverage tonight, nine dams broken, floating cars everywhere, people clinging to trees, and one lady who said that all she has are the clothes on her back, but she is ALIVE.
There are, over on Beechtree for you locals, a siren post behind a car wash, by a baseball field, and I always look at it when I drive by. Its yellow and has horns and looks like a relic of some bygone era, I bet it still works though.
Another colleague and I are the CAT adjusters right now, and I think it was made this way on purpose. We are both very efficient, and I will cry with people, and he will make them laugh. When a warning siren becomes real, it is a terrible and paralyzing thing.
I am so happy to be the voice on the other end, I am so happy to cry with these folks and to make some small part of this ok.
I think I might be called to serve.
And it truly is my honor to do so.
Tomorrow I will meet with our Bishop, this man whose ring I pretended to kiss, in a joking way, at his ordination.
Tomorrow we will talk about the calling of a deacon, and he will form his own opinions and make his recommendations about me and what I am or am not called to do.
I keep thinking about a video we watched at deacon school last month, this deacon talked about how he sang in his church choir (and I wrote this down in my notepad in LARGE letters, SINGS IN THE CHOIR) and he also talked about being sent to places in his diocese that were gutted by tornadoes and how he was the hands and feet and messenger of his bishop. He was there to say, we care, and also there to pass along to the bishop the needs of the people in this area.
And I cursed my “need a job” state and wished to be that person… and then I realized that I am that person, in some ways. I am bringing good tidings, I am telling people it will be ok, even though the water is high and the sky is dark; I am singing that dark back. I am listening to their muffled sobs and wiping my own tears away all at once.
I am indemnifying.
To indemnify is to make whole, and it is my day job, and my calling too, this odd work fueled by grace. And blood and sweat, and many tears.
I do this over the clamor and fear mongering of the media, and I can have these quiet moments where I am at my desk and the dog is in his bed next to me and I have an old man on the phone who is crying for all that has been lost. I think it’s a two-way street though, as I’d reached a point of no return I took this call, so tired and frustrated. But I listened to this story, and I wept those tears.
I was made whole by the person who came to me for help, because that is the way. The last shall be first and the first shall be last… and I will be made whole by an old man who didn’t mean it to be so.
And I can see that there is a certain magic in the world, only it seems like some days it is especially present. And I love those days.