Back in February I flew to Chicago for a friend’s wedding. I was embarrassed that I couldn’t afford the trip, but honored to be a bridesmaid. I wouldn’t dare, couldn’t dare cancel– under any circumstances.
In the past few years the bride had become like a sister to me: an inspiration who never set limits on anything and who believed that anything could be overcome with patience, faith and good old-fashioned, hard work. I was honored to participate and excited for her marriage.
When I boarded the plane, I was frazzled. Although I’d picked the two most feasible sizes, my bridesmaid dress wouldn’t zip. On top of that I couldn’t afford more shoes, so I brought the only heels I had: thick, black, army-like ankle boots.
I took a window seat on the flight in the very last aisle of the last row– at the back on the right. I was in a hurry and wanted the least human interaction possible.
When the turbulence started, my heart fluttered. I put my scarf over my face and tried to sleep, but the rattling was overbearing and persistent. The plane shook left a few times then shuttered to the right. I could feel my chest tighten, so I grabbed a book and started flipping through. It took a few pages to calm my nerves, but the swaying was so pronounced and clear that the couple up ahead gasped in fear, and the woman to my left (who’d previously declined my hello) grabbed and held my hand.
We looked at each other with such fear and panic, and neither of us let go until the plane had almost landed. We said nothing but breathed heavily through our fear.
When the plane landed it hit the ground with such ferocity that we thought it would explode on impact. Some of us shrieked, and when the fasten seatbelt sign dimmed, we removed our belts, grabbed our chests, and exhaled (to each other, and to ourselves) in unison. We knew, without questioning, that it very well could have been our last flight.
For those like me who were spared by Harvey, there’s a collective sense of grief and shame. We’re embarrassed, but grateful. We feel a collective responsibility to feed, shelter, and contribute, but a keen awareness that many of our friends and families have lost everything.
Since it landed, I’ve called my mother everyday. I’ve checked in with my sister and her family constantly. When I ate breakfast this morning, I thought about not having access to food, or not having enough food for my family. I thought about being scared to drink the water, and not knowing when, where, or if my next meal would come.
Today, and everyday since it landed, everything was significant. Everything was important. Everything was sacred. I was overwhelmed by the desire not to be wasteful. Not to waste anything: a scrap of paper, an inch of bread, an ounce of time.
Do what you can to show your appreciation for what you have and who’s helped you acquire it.
Use your anger in meaningful and significant ways. Don’t waste it on small battles. Don’t waste it on small victories. Don’t waste it on people who wish that you were smaller.
Don’t waste it on struggles that don’t cause growth or bear fruit. Don’t waste it or bury it where it will sprout up inside of you.
Save tonight. Value it. Treasure it. Use it. Keep it in the place you have for keeping.
Call on it when you need its memory to save you.