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MY WORD: Some thoughts on the Moore Tornado

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By Jene Hedden

“Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next.”Gilda Radner

The tornado that struck Moore, Okla., -- and those that followed in other nearby towns – remind us again that life is uncertain. I find it nearly impossible to comprehend the pain and loss those people are enduring today, especially the parents of the lost children.

We assume each day will be just another day. We make no plans for the unexpected. We lack the capacity to see into the future or to know what tomorrow holds. Maybe if we could know, we would fear what we saw even more than what we can imagine.

Within the past several months, we have too often seen the striking down of young children, first at Sandy Hook, then in Boston and now in Moore. These young people were someone’s child and grandchild, and they were lost far too soon.

Those of us who are Baby Boomers plan for tomorrow and next month and next year with the full expectation that we will have time to play and celebrate our retirements. Yet, when we witness a tragedy such as occurred in Oklahoma or visit a friend in the hospital suffering with life-threatening conditions, we are reminded of how fragile health and life really are.

So, the question becomes, what can we do to cope with the uncertainty of life?

Following are a few things to consider while we process the disasters we have recently faced:

  • Regardless of life’s uncertainties, make plans for the future anyway. We all need a plan to follow, for without a road map, we become anxious and afraid.
  • Place the focus on things we can control rather than worrying about those things which are beyond our control such as weather, terrorists and random violence.
  • Accept that bad things can happen to anyone…even to our loved ones and ourselves. It is fruitless to blame God for climatic changes or the weather service for giving only 15 minutes warning. Instead, we can learn from these situations and use what we have learned to be better prepared in the future.
  • Be intentional about controlling personal stress and practice relaxation and stress control every day by engaging in any of the following activities.
  • Physical exercise releases all kinds of feel-good hormones and chemicals in the body. These substances balance the stress hormones that can be so damaging. So take a walk every day or do some other physical activity that you enjoy such as swimming, biking or dancing.
  • Read for enjoyment or engage in another activity that focuses your mind into the moment and away from the stress and bad news of the day. These activities can include art, hobbies such as needlework or woodworking, listening to relaxing music, watching a favorite movie, meditation and of course prayer.
  • Seek out volunteer opportunities and focus on others’ needs and away from your own problems, stresses and fears.
  • Do not hesitate to ask for help when stress becomes overwhelming and/or begins affecting your normal routine. Seek out a professional counselor or pastor if you are experiencing changes in sleep patterns, appetite or find yourself feeling hopeless.

One of the best ways to balance out all the bad news of the world is to take notice of life’s blessings. In my prayer life, I often ask God to “delight me today” in some unexpected way, and he often answers my request in remarkable ways.

For instance, the other day I asked for a “delight.” Subsequently, while on my morning walk, I came upon 19 Cedar Waxwing Blackbirds feeding in a cedar tree. These birds migrate through Kentucky, but rarely have I seen them, and observing so many of them at once was truly a “delight.”

This past Saturday, I quite unexpectedly met an old friend whom I had not seen in nearly 12 years. We visited and shared a bit about the years since last we saw each other. I had prayed for God to “delight” me that day and found that my friend and I had both received a surprise blessing.

“Delights” and blessings are all around us, but life and tragedy can blind us to them. Start counting your blessings and you’ll soon discover that the old saying, “Seeing is believing” only goes so far. The real blessings are discovered when we realize that “believing is seeing.”

Today as we grieve for the victims of the storms of the Great Midwest, we offer up our prayers and hope for the physical recovery for the many injured. It will take a long time for the survivors of the Moore tornado to process the physical, financial and emotional effects of their experience.

Yet, let us not forget that disasters in America seem to bring out the best in our country. In the past, we as a nation have rallied to help with donations of food, clothing and money to rebuild and we will do so again and again.

The citizens of Moore will continue with life today even though they cannot know what this day will bring. Moreover, neither do any of us. Nevertheless, we will continue to pray to God that in the midst of tragedy He will delight us and bless the victims with reports of survival and the selfless acts of anonymous benefactors who will help make this tragedy a bit more bearable.

 

Thomas E. (Jene) Hedden of Shelbyville is president emeritus of and a counselor at Shelby Counseling Associates and a research/interviewer for the National Institutes of Mental Health at the University of Louisville. He is co-teacher of the Seekers Sunday school class at First Baptist Church Shelbyville and publisher of ShelbyBoomer.com, a Web site by, for and about Baby Boomers.