I am struggling and I am not alone.
Those words drifted through my mind yesterday as I sat in a chair listening to my friend Kerry Parsons talk about her experiences at the Alia Institute last week in Halifax. Far from the raging waters of the Bow and Elbow, Kerry and many others were immersed in conversations and exploration of ‘authentic leadership’.
And as she spoke the thoughts of the disaster rattled through my mind. “Why I sitting here doing nothing? I’ve got to get busy. I’ve got to pitch in”.
And then this though surfaced like a warm blanket of ease to comfort me, “I am struggling and I am not alone.”
It is true. I am struggling. As is every Calgarian and all of our neighbours in southern Alberta. The damage, says BMO Nesbitt is somewhere between $3 and $5 billion. Hello? that’s a spread of $2 billion unknown damage. High or low side of their estimates though, it’s a whole lot of damage.
And we are struggling. Struggling to make sense of what happened. Struggling to know what to do next. Struggling to keep ourselves, and our families together. Struggling to get it done now when all we can do is stand in the ‘creative tension’ of our undoing by the raging flood waters.
And we are not alone.
We are one community, together, moving forward, through, over and under, around and between everything in our path.
We are not alone.
My daughter and mother are still evacuated as are tens of thousands of others. But, good news, over 35,000 people have been able to return home. And when they have, they have been met by a phalanx of volunteers standing ready to pitch in, lend a hand, get to work.
Take the Children’s Cottage. Its Bridgeland shelter was evacuated on Thursday night. On Sunday, Executive Director, Patty Kilgallon was allowed in to survey the damage on Sunday afternoon. When she arrived, she was met by JL Construction and 40 family, friends and strangers who pitched in to pump the place out, tear out dry-wall, carry out garbage and soaked furniture to get the place ready to receive the children home this week. In tears she told a news reporter of how incredibly empowering it was to have so much unexpected and welcome help. When JL Construction (I hope I have their name right — I heard her interviewed on the radio while driving to my office yesterday and didn’t write it down), anyway, when they were finished pumping out the Children’s Cottage basement, they continued on down the entire street pumping out every single basement.
That’s the Calgary spirit. We are not alone.
At Neighbourlink, food trucks have been arriving to serve up delicious food — for free. This is happening all over the city. The food truck phenomena spreads far and wide, the hosts of the trucks handing out free food to volunteers — and then, a stranger will walk up and pay for all the food. It is phenomenal.
Also at Neighbourlink yesterday, a company from Red Deer sent down a semi-trailer full of donations. And, a call out for an empty semi to store all the donations their team and volunteers are processing resulted in 20 minutes later, Suncor Energy jumping in with a donation of a truck, complete with delivery and team of volunteers.
My daughter’s workplace team headed out to Bowness in the morning, pitched in all day cleaning up mess there and then, when she called me at 5:00 she was on her way to Roxborough to help out a friend’s family who needed all hands on deck to salvage their home from the wreckage. When she arrived home at 9 she was exhausted but happy. And in all the activity her own concerns about when will she be able to go back home were forgotten.
But it is stressful for her, and my mother and the 600 other seniors who still cannot return home to their Bridgeland apartments.
I am struggling and I am not alone.
I am tired and I am not alone.
I am weary and I am not alone.
I am grateful and I am not alone.
I am inspired and I am not alone.
I am doing my best and I am not alone.
There are still those in emergency evacuation shelters.
They are scared and they are not alone.
And there are those returning home. They are worried and they are not alone.
It is not until they walk into their neighbourhoods that they see what awaits them. It is not until they step through the door that they can see the mess. For some, the devastation is beyond repair. For many, there is much work to be done. For some, there is nothing to be done other than to check for damage in dark corners of their basements. For some, there is nothing to do but start again. All over. And in the starting again, they are not alone.
It reassures me this thought. I am not alone. It gives me comfort. Solace. We are human beings and our DNA is programmed for connection, for belonging, for community.
We may be struggling, but in our struggle we are not alone.
Thank you to everyone who has emailed, text, called. I appreciate your thoughts and words and support and warm caring. You remind me, I am not alone.
And thank you Kerry and Sheryl — the time spent conversing, sharing, inspiring one another gave me great peace. You reminded me, I am not alone.