By Amy Butler
The expression “like sitting ducks” seems apropos for those of us on the East Coast last week. We knew for several days that a huge storm was headed our way, and so we waited, glued to news reports and watching the scenes outside our windows.
Occasional weather emergencies are a fact of life, but experts told us this is a storm like no other, so everyone seemed to take preparation more seriously than usual.
Because of this, the storm was the topic of most conversations. Everywhere you turned folks were offering advice about how to get ready. Batteries, water, sandbags, candles, ice, canned food — the list of necessary items goes on.
Not to be left behind, I finally gave in and looked around the house, taking stock. Three flashlights, a bunch of candles, a few bottles of water — it looked to me like we had most of what we needed.
I still felt unprepared, though, because I hadn’t made the obligatory trip to the store. Everybody else was doing it. I could only surmise that if I headed to the store along with everyone else in the greater metropolitan area, I would find that I’d overlooked something I would certainly need to survive the storm.
And so, I dutifully made my way to the grocery store. As expected, the parking lot was full and it was a high-stakes battle for the next available cart. Inside, people were rushing to fill carts with all kinds of things. I decided to join the crowd and walk the aisles to find all the elusive things I was surely missing and would desperately need.
I dodged carts and studied empty shelves, puzzled. Why, for example, the entire sugar shelf on the baking aisle was empty, I could not imagine, but I suddenly had a desperate, sinking feeling that I, too, might very well be out of sugar. How would we survive without it?
Fighting my way up and down the aisles and feeling the heightened anxiety of everyone in the store, I added a few things to the cart here and there: a couple cans of soup, another gallon of water, some bananas. I stood in line at the checkout counter then made my way through the teeming parking lot back to the car.
On the way home, I started thinking some more about the upcoming storm and my trip to the store to get what we needed. I realized my rush to acquire more things had come out of some misguided peer pressure, a kind of communal anxiety. I was fairly sure we had everything we needed and more to survive Hurricane Sandy one way or another, even if we did run out of bananas before it was all over.
Shelter, the company of loved ones, food, the prayers of friends surrounding us, there were so many things we already had, more than enough to survive, more than so many people all over the world.
Turns out there’s nothing like an impending emergency to give me what I really needed after all: a healthy dose of perspective and the sure knowledge that there is very little in my life that is wanting.
I wondered: How much time do I spend fighting my way down the aisles of my life, wondering what’s missing? And how much freer would it be to walk confidently, assured that I really do have everything that I could possibly need — and more?
These, I think, are good questions to ponder by candlelight.