• Stephen Warneke

Irma's Lessons



Have you ever thrown out your back and barely been able to get up off of the floor? Have you ever broken an extremity or suffered an injury and not been able to do a myriad of the daily tasks you could normally accomplish without a second thought? I’ve even had simple paper-cuts that really made me appreciate the times I could squeeze lime on my fajitas without screaming out in pain.

These physical examples are ways life reminds us to be thankful for our bodies and the function we normally DO have. We have two choices when a physical incident like this occurs. The first choice is to be angry it happened to us, feel helpless and victimized and go into the “why me” routine. Or, we can choose to be thankful for all the times our injury wasn’t there, and be grateful for all the other parts of our body that ARE STILL working. We can use this opportunity to know, in most instances, we will get through whatever is ailing us, and we will then be extra grateful when we are healed and can resume business as usual.

Magnify the previous examples and you will find times when our very lives and everything we own are threatened by say, a major hurricane. At first I felt angry that it was happening, as I worried about my house and all my belongings being destroyed or washed away. But some interesting things happened as I left everything behind, so as to not put my life in unnecessary jeopardy.

Evacuating, I observed a lot of things. We were stuck in gridlock traffic and trying to leave a peninsula with barely any gas. What if we ran out on the side of the road? We didn’t know if or when we were going to be able to find more. We didn’t know where or if we would be able to find a place to stay that night. We didn’t know if we had enough food or water if things went bad. We didn’t know where the storm was going to hit or which way to go, as the forecast was constantly changing. I worried about coming home, only to find everything I’ve worked so hard for destroyed or gone forever. I was for sure angry.

It was then I made an important decision— I was going to let it go. I was going to make the best decisions I could, based on the current information, then take it step by step. In my mind, I let go of all my belongings and said, “Whatever is going to happen is beyond my control. I’ve done the best I can. There isn’t anything I can’t rebuild.” I also took this moment to be grateful for all the time and opportunity I had to enjoy my wonderful house and all my favorite things. Maybe one day I would get to enjoy them again. If so, I would remember to be grateful at that point too. If not, then I would work hard, buy some new favorite stuff and be sure to enjoy that as well.

I couldn’t help but reflect back over my life and some of the greatest losses I’ve suffered. I remembered times when I didn’t think I could get through what was happening. One thing I’ve noticed about extreme loss (and this usually takes many years passing before one can see this) is that there is some good that comes out of it. Growth, confidence, self-esteem, knowledge, abilities, experience, and relationships are just some of the good that comes out of a hardship such as loss. Usually one can look back and say, “Even though it was difficult, I’m better off now because had that loss not occurred, I never would have moved here / met that person / got that other job which led to me meeting my spouse…” or something to that effect.

After all this reflection, I took a deep breath, prayed, and kept moving forward as best I could, knowing that if there was a loss, it would one day work out to my benefit. The only way it might not is if I get stuck in a cycle of self-pity and despair. I must believe that it will come back to me and keep moving forward with a good heart.

During this “HORRIBLE” event— Hurricane Irma, I saw an outpouring of love, concern, prayers, and well wishes not only for me but the people around me. I saw people share supplies, give away food or other belongings, offer to fly out to help clean up, donate their time and money to help others. Complete strangers opened up their house and let us stay, even though they were in another state. Neighbors were helping one another. Even just looking for food when almost everything was closed, people weren’t yelling, bickering or fighting. They weren’t making fun of each other or denouncing others’ beliefs. They weren’t arguing over politics or taxes.

Instead, we all just smiled at each other. It was a smile that said a lot— things like, “I hope this is over soon. I’m sorry you’re caught in the middle of this also. We are going to be ok. If you need anything ask.” We held doors for each other. We allowed people to go in front of us. We didn’t honk at everyone. We shook hands, introduced ourselves, and exchanged pleasantries.

I remember a time when the country was more like this in general. I remember a time when we were nicer and more respectful of each other’s beliefs, lives and belongings. I remember a time when we looked at each other and our smiles said, “I’m so thankful to be here. We have it so great here in America.”

I’ve been trying to heal this country and I’ve started with the relationship between the police and the citizens because it’s an important one. My book, From Boy To Blue is only the beginning, because now I am even more convinced that I’m on the right track. I am even more convinced that we as a nation and as people deep down are longing to be kind and good to one another. I am even more convinced now than ever that we are desperate to unite and heal our wounds. And I know when we do unite, we will look back and see just how much stronger and better we are than ever before.

I’m sorry that some people lost their lives in Hurricane Irma. I’m sorry there were millions and billions of dollars in damage and mountains of inconvenience and hassle for the millions of people affected.

But I also see the good that came out of Hurricane Irma, who reminded us how amazing we have it here. She also reminded us how to be kind, good, caring, and respectful to one another. And, hopefully, she taught everyone we don’t need a natural disaster to give us a reason to come together.

#hurricane #irma #hurricaneirma #police #florida #texas