Finding Perspective in a Flood
There is nothing like a thousand-year flood to give you a more balanced perspective. Right before monsoon-like rains struck West Virginia last month, I was in the midst of a pinch caused by a hefty, long-overdue invoice.
While I was confident I would get paid eventually, it still feels a tad irritating when you know that if everyone who owed you would pay their bills on time, I wouldn’t have been facing a cash crunch.
Then the rains came, which short-circuited our electricity and forced me to use my mobile office (a nearby public library branch). Fortunately, the outage only lasted for about 90 minutes, but it was raining so hard I delayed my return a while to avoid getting further drenched.
The next morning, I lamented the possibility that the Greenbrier Classic might get called off. With the state’s economic woes, it’s not like we can afford to forego the economic bonus of a PGA golf tournament—or the attendant positive national publicity.
Then as the day wore on and the bad news piled up, I discovered two things: 1) the cancellation of a professional golf tourney was the least of our troubles, 2) my temporary cash-flow crisis fit into the category of “minor nuisance.”
Learning What’s Important
Because I live in one of the 11 counties that wasn’t classified a disaster area, at first I didn’t realize the extent of the cost to life and property. The death toll the day after the rains after hit 14, and would reach nearly two dozen.
Particularly gut-wrenching were two stories I saw on a TV newscast that weekend. A four-year-old boy who was standing next to his grandfather got swept away by a creek that turned deadly. An eight-year-old walking by a river and next to his mother slipped into the water and drowned.
One woman whose whole town got swamped by a flooded river talked of how she had learned what was really important.
All those trinkets and personal possessions that she used to think were “treasures” weren’t, she told a reporter. Getting out of her flooded home with her grandson is what really mattered.
Dealing with Disaster
After watching that woman share her experiences, and others talking about how they had lost everything, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach.
Because this was the kind of flood that is only expected every millennium, and because some homeowners didn’t even live in a flood plain, there are residents who literally have no home—nor flood insurance to help them rebuild.
Of course, the same thing happened in the California wildfires that destroyed more than 150 homes the same weekend West Virginia’s flooding received national TV and Internet coverage.
This bad news prompted me to spend some time reflecting on how I would handle that kind of crisis. Since I work out of our home, being displaced there would also mean being unable to work.
Treasures in Heaven
Of course, the answer is: I don’t know what I would do. With laptops and online back-up, returning to business is much easier than in the past. But I’m not sure how I would traverse the gut-wrenching emotions and interruption to daily life.
However, at times like these, Christ’s words in Matthew 6:19 are more relevant than ever: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.”
Whether in a flood, a fire, or simply one’s own death, everything in this world is passing away.