During the first few days of May, 2010 Nashville, Tennessee experienced flooding like nothing it had seen in centuries. It was epic – biblical – Homeric. Water poured from the sky with an urgency and fierceness that bewildered residents. Everyone was completely caught off guard. Flash flooding filled every crack and crevasse of land, forcing its way wherever it pleased. In a matter of hours, newly formed rivers and channels of water cut off large sections of the city. Where there were once roads, now there were waterways. Where there were once shopping malls, there were now lakes. No one could believe their eyes as we watched a portable school building float aimlessly down the interstate on the evening news.
The result of this onslaught of water was devastation and loss. The loss of public and private property was mind-boggling, but the loss of personal history and treasured memories was incalculable. So many areas flooded that almost everyone suffered loss or knew someone close to them who was affected. Stories of personal tragedy and homelessness were everywhere. It was almost more than a city could take. But on the heels of these stories – within a matter of days – were just as many stories of triumph and goodness.
About 3 months after the floodwaters abated, I had a chance meeting with a woman named Ann. We had occasion to chat one afternoon, and in the course of our small talk, the subject of the flood came up. I asked if she had suffered any damage. This question innocently followed the typical conversational highlights that you have with a stranger – you know, the “How ‘bout this weather?” kind of stuff. With an expressionless face, Ann looked up at me and said, “I lost everything.” Her words fell like bricks on my chest. I had no idea that I was sitting with a woman who was facing one of the most difficult and overwhelming challenges of her life.
The conversation that followed was enlightening, heartbreaking, and helpful. I learned so much sitting with this stranger as she poured out her story. I hope to share with you some of the things Ann taught me that day. She was surprisingly vulnerable, honest, and forthcoming. The things Ann told me changed me, and I hope you will be changed by her story too.
Ann began by sharing that a creek, which ran through her property, overflowed its banks and within no time her neighbor was at her back door saying they had to get out. It was treacherous for them as they narrowly escaped the rushing rising creek. In a matter of hours, all that Ann had was swallowed up by the muddy churning waters that invaded her home. She was able to set a few things high enough to avoid damage, but for the most part – everything was lost.
In the days that followed, Ann went through a series of emotions and feelings that would twist the strongest of us into knots. I will share with you what she told me. I will tell you what she said were the hardest parts – the things she wished people had been able to do for her, and what she couldn’t believe they did.
“Goodness listens and learns.”
A “Good” Idea:
Visit us next week to read more of Ann’s story and follow this four part series on Goodness in Special Circumstances