If Hurricane Harvey hit your area, what would you say the value of your life would be?
Have you ever thought about it… the value of a human life… or any life, for that matter?
I write this today because I’m sometimes relegated to shaking my head as I watch the news, read articles, and so on. Today and this topic is one of those times.
Hurricane Harvey is hitting Texas hard right now. There’s much damage and torrential rain… with, at this point, more to come. The last anticipation I’m aware of was the greater concern that the storm has a high propensity for losing some impact while inland, but then could turn back to the gulf where it may regain strength, travel a bit more east and hit the coastlines of neighboring states. Still, that’s not what prompted me to shake my head or write this post.
See, as I watched the news just prior to the storm making landfall, there was coverage of areas where a voluntary evacuation had begun. This made perfect sense to me, given the level of strength still anticipated and damage felt to be rendered upon impact.
The newscaster in this particular instance was on-the-ground speaking with a few local residents about how they were feeling, whether or not they were or planned to evacuate, and so on. Then… it happened.
Man, if you ever wonder about how much common sense there is left in this world, you’ve but to only turn on the news and watch a live interview with “common people”. Lol
There was a woman who was briefly interviewed. Although I made no note of her name, place, or even her (I presume small) business, her comments and reasoning did NOT escape me… but rather reminded me of similar events when Hurricane Katrina was heading inland and evacuations had begun in LA.
The journalist asked her whether or not she was going to evacuate, to which she flatly stated no.
Seemingly a tad bit shocked, he then asked why, to which she replied something to the effect that she needed to stay and protect her business from being looted.
Okay, THIS is where my head-shaking began. 🙂
He then asked her if anything could be said or done to change her mind, given the upgrades in categories and damage anticipated. Her reply, “Probably not.”
So, as I (again) reflected on the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina, I began to contemplate how very little common sense this woman had. Did she even realize how LITTLE sense she was making? And further, I wanted to ask if she really felt her own life was worth so little that she’d put it in harm’s way of a storm capable of massive damage (when she clearly had the means and opportunity to do so) JUST to “protect” her business from looters — especially given that she should have insurance for such things and, likely, those looters (should it occur) may very well meet their own injury or demise by staying behind TO loot.
The current death toll from Hurricane Harvey? One… so far, although city officials where the storm hit hardest are quoted in news reports of telling those who didn’t heed the (mandatory) evacuation to mark their arms with Sharpies — presumably so rescuers could more readily identify them.
What do you say about this?
How would you rate the value of your own life in a similar situation?
If you know me at all, you know I tend to be a deep-thinker. I see the universe in wide-open spaces and limitless possibilities vs. the boxes that other people and society as a whole wants to shove people, situations, circumstances, outcomes, and expectations into. My standards and expectations are high – for myself and anybody who engages with me, pretty much on any level. And, I have a knack for being able to take a time and space, step outside myself, and see it from various other perspectives.
So recently, when visiting my parents, I caught myself stepping outside and observing us all (and especially them) as I began to ponder life. What does it mean? How’s it really meant to be lived? Why are so many people feeling unfulfilled and disillusioned? And, most importantly, what can I personally do about it?
Here’s the deal:
I grew up in what would probably be defined as a middle-income family. A very blended (mom, step-moms [yes, plural, ugh…], dad, step-dad, sister, step-sisters [on both sides of the equation], a step-brother [who I never really came to know because he chose to stop coming around and has never changed course], another step-brother [who just became a part of my life a few years ago – shout out to Neal :)], and a half-brother) family. Monetarily okay but certainly with boundaries.
As you may imagine, there can be a fair amount of emotional baggage that builds up over time with such a “rich” (lol) and dynamic, um, upbringing, shall we say. Truthfully, I became aware of some of this baggage at a fairly young age and learned how to use it to motivate myself toward more positive things. This isn’t something I necessarily recommend, because, over time, the harboring of all the negativity can take serious tolls if not dealt with, which I did, but it can certainly work quite well “for the moment”.
It’s mostly because of those adversities, however, that I became a stronger, more motivated, and very determined person, I believe.
See, when you’re faced with “life”, you have choices. We all have choices. Even when you think you don’t, you really do; just look more closely. (Even when you decide to not decide something, you’ve still made a decision. Get it?) Making those choices and decisions set you on certain paths. It doesn’t mean you can never change your trajectory; it only means that until you choose to change your trajectory, “this” is the course you’re on. So when faced with adversity, choose, right? I mean, choose what you are or aren’t going to do about it.
Choose whether or not you’re going to allow the situation and circumstance to define you or if you’re going to leverage it to move you in a more positive and productive direction. For me, I’ve always chosen the latter. Don’t misunderstand, though, the majority of the human population will choose the first – including my own family.
This means that I’ve also always been the “outsider”. The “black sheep”, if you will. I’ve been hated on… by my own family (and countless others who don’t even know me)… because I’m different – and people in general tend to fear and feel uncomfortable in the presence of or when faced with that which they don’t understand. I’m okay with it. 🙂
Am I a “bad” person? No, not at all, in my opinion. In fact, I think I’m one of the “better” kinds of people. I’m honest… to a default, I’ve been told (which can sometimes be painful, for both me and the person I’m being honest with lol). I’m extremely loyal… to those who earn it. (I’ve said – on more than one occasion – I AM the person who will “go down with the ship”, simply because I believe in something and will not falter just because it’s not the most popular belief or stance.) I only expect of others what I expect of myself – despite how high those standards may be. When you have my friendship and love, you have the absolute best parts of me.
Conversely, I (like most people) have an alternate side. It’s not one I keep hidden. In fact, I’m pretty open about it and freely warn people of it. For all the “good” I am and can be, I’m not typically the person you want to “cross” either. Oh, I don’t do mean, malicious things to people; I simply have a divine capacity to call upon those adversities and derive a strength that allows me to push forward and beyond others who want to be mean and malicious to me.
Do I “get even”? Not really. Life, in all its glory, has taught me that that kind of anger and vengefulness can hurt others, of course, but I feel ultimately destroys the person who holds it more. In fact, I tend to view those people and situations by dealing with whatever the situation is within myself, then forgiving and releasing the other person. (Bear in mind: Forgiveness is for YOU, not the other person. The Bible calls me to forgive, but my duty stops there. What the other person does isn’t for me to determine or concern myself with. Their life is their life to live and deal with.) Now, when warranted, I will do my part in correcting “wrongs”, though. I refuse to be trampled upon and shoved aside. It’s a matter of respect – for myself and that which I feel every person is entitled… until and unless they prove themselves to be unworthy of mine. My term: value. Simply put.
So what does all this have to do with stepping outside myself and observing my parents?
There wasn’t really anything “special” about this day, and this outside observance wasn’t really anything I intentionally set out to do. It’s just kinda like, all-of-a-sudden I was watching a movie instead of participating in the moment. I watched them move. I saw how they interacted with one another. I listened intently to their words, and the tones and inflections of those words. And, despite all their pride and grandeur that I remember from years gone by, I saw something deeper in those few moments. And I had to ask myself some very tough questions… thus some very tough decisions to come, as a result.
See, growing up, my mom was “home” with us kids. I was raised by my mom and bonus dad, but my bonus dad always had his own business. As far back as I consciously recall, anyway. He worked a lot. I hardly remember a time he wasn’t working – whether it was in his business, around the house, in the garage or yard, etc. And my mom… Well, she’s always been the “sacrificial lamb”, per se. You know, the one who will always do without things she wants, needs, and desires so others can have their way, wants, etc. (Yes, there are times she’s let slip how hurt she’s felt about some of those things – because people tend to take advantage more than they tend to reciprocate.)
My parents are now older. In their 70s. Still self-sufficient, thank you, Jesus… and fairly good health – with the occasional “scare”, but that can happen to any of us at any given moment.
So while I watched, listened, and allowed my entire being to take in all the sensory possibilities of this time, all I could think is…
THIS is life???
And the resounding answer in my head said, “No, there’s no WAY “THIS” could be what LIFE is supposed to be.”
Are you really suppose to dedicate over 2/3 of your living years to working, giving, providing… all for the betterment of others… just so you can reach that last 1/3 and worry about medical bills, having enough money to meet your monthly obligations, wanting what you want and feeling like you’ve earned it but still being unable to have or get it without “selling your soul”?? Again, the voice in my head said (louder this time), “No!”
The next question became, “What are YOU going to do about it?”
Right? Because everything is a choice, right? I mean, even in this situation, there are a multitude of choices.
I can say, “No” and only concern myself with the fact that their reality isn’t going to be my reality and what I’m going to do to be certain it’s not.
I can say, “No” and think about my own son and how I ensure he never feels how I was feeling in that moment.
I can say, “No” and wonder what all my other siblings are going to do (or help do) about it.
Or, I can say, “No” and decide what I’M going to do about it. All of it.
Because I have this baggage that became my strength enabling me to dig deep within myself and create a massive change whenever and wherever I want, right? (By the way, we all have this. YOU have this. You may not know it. You may think you’ve lost it. Let me assure you: It’s there. It’s still there. And even if you think that “fire” in the pit of your stomach and core of your being is gone… it’s not. Any time you choose to dig deep, you’ll find it. Just call upon it, and it will rise up, assisting you to create and manifest whatever you want in life. Sorry, I digress. Lol)
Now, this “decision” was already in full swing when I learned a few other pieces to the puzzle that only serve to fuel the fire:
My MOM is ready to finally see and acknowledge some of her OWN worth and the fact that she’s just as entitled to live and do things that make HER happy as she’s done for others all these years. (I mentioned to her our company’s next live event in a few months in Nashville and told her she should go with me. [She’s a country-and-western, Elvis-lovin’ nut. J ] At first she balked. Then, about 30 minutes later, she called me back asking about the details and said she “just might” need to do that.)
My BONUS DAD had gone BACK to work to supplement his income, and I learned that, despite the pain of a recurring sciatic nerve issue, he’s been getting up every morning and going to work. THAT is NOT life. Not by my definition anyway.
So, it’s with a new resolve that the next chapter of my life begins.
It’s a situation they’re unable to resolve on their own. It’s a situation that I will also benefit from as I resolve theirs (because as I become focused and work toward fulfilling what I feel THEIR life should offer them, I can’t HELP but improve my own – Do you see that? It’s not my motivation, but it’s certainly a by-product.), thus making them happier because they’ll never have to worry about “me” (not that they’ve ever really had to – I’ve always been the self-sufficient child. Lol ).
See, sometimes we view life’s adversities in a negative light, but I want to challenge your perspective on that today. I’ve likely had more adversity in my life than most… and, yet, far less than others who have overcome their circumstances. There are many things I’ve endured in my life that you, dear reader, will likely never know… unless you come to know me personally – simply because, although I remember and keep those times ever-present in my mind, I choose to not dwell there.
You, too, have a choice:
Allow your adversities to determine who you are, where you’re going, who you’ll become, what you’ll achieve, the life you’ll live, the life you’ll part from, what you’ll leave behind, and who will miss you or…
Repackage those adversities and leverage them to grow your determination and resolve to meet new heights, live a higher quality of life, provide more value and happiness to others, and live in the full greatness you were always meant to.