Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Heart Flooded with Gratitude

Lesley Snyder
7th Grade ELA Teacher
Contact Mrs. Snyder
Twitter: MsTeachELA


Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a planner. I practically breathe because I’ve scheduled it into my overly expensive, color-coded Erin Condren planner. Over-planning isn’t my best quality, I also tend to be stubborn and often put more on my plate than I should. These aren’t my best qualities, a phrase that has taken some time to admit. Thankfully, I had plenty of opportunity to work on these qualities the past few months. The one-in-a-thousand year flood wreaked havoc over our state and drowned all of my well-laid plans. That being said, I’ve never been more grateful for having gone through such a trying situation.

A few weeks before the flood, I was blessed to find out that my husband and I were expecting our first child. Being the planner that I am, I started to make lists, timelines, and deadlines for all of the things we needed to get done. My husband and I went to bed the night before with big plans of working on the soon-to-be nursery the next day. We had spent the evening cleaning, organizing materials, and deciding how we wanted to arrange everything…super romantic Saturday night, I know. Unfortunately, we awoke to chaos. Within thirty minutes, water was pouring into our home from every exterior wall. The floors were lifting up and breaking apart. We scrambled to pick up our pets and anything meaningful that we could. We huddled with our animals in the attic until the water receded in our house a few hours later. When the water cleared, it became evident that everything was ruined. Many of our belongings were littering neighboring yards or floating in the street. It was so much to process at once, and the only thing I felt was numb.

Immediately, the well wishes, prayers, and love poured in. My phone was almost dead, but that didn’t stop the text messages and phone calls. At the time, we truly didn’t know what we needed, but somehow everyone else knew exactly what we needed. The outpouring of hope and love really helped us get through the initial period of shock. Within hours, co-workers, family, and friends were trying to help us wash clothes, make food, and so much else. It was difficult to start accepting so much help at once. Living my life with the “I can do it by myself” attitude sure didn’t help. Thankfully, everyone was persistent and kind with their offers. I am not sure I’ve ever been more thankful for a hug, a pizza, or a box of basic necessities. My students went to Edmodo showering the timeline with posts of encouragement and love. Within days, my house was cleaned out (even this was a blessing). What few possessions we had left were boxed up, and we were left standing in an empty home trying to figure out what to do next. I’m not sure I could have ever planned to be pregnant, carless, and homeless. I wasn’t even sure I was ready to deal with this reality, but with everyone cheering us on, it didn’t seem so daunting. 

Insurance worked slowly, but eventually, they arranged a hotel for my husband and me. Hotels are great to stay in, but only on vacation. Those words taste a little bitter coming out of my mouth. It seems ungrateful to say that I hated living in a hotel, but honesty is an important quality too, right?  Two months in a hotel being sick, pregnant, irritable, and living in a one room space isn’t fun. To be honest, it quickly brought our newly wedded bliss to an end.  We often joked that it would be a miracle if we didn’t get divorced before our home was ready. Though, at times, it didn’t seem like a joke. We had good days, and we had days that seemed worse than the day of the flood.

Many people sought me out and let me vent. They offered their positivity and prayers. They reminded me that they were here for us, and that they were in our corner. For those things, I am truly grateful. I’m not sure those people will ever truly recognize the abundance they gave me with their simple presence and listening ear. You realize when living in a hotel that: cooking is impossible with just a microwave, you must wait to use the restroom (even if you really have to go), it is impossible to catch up on your graduate studies when your husband is watching football loudly, and that you have no idea how expensive washing your clothes at a laundry mat truly is. Even those small annoyances were met with solutions. Those solutions gave me the hope I needed to push through the trials.

Though the two months out of our home drug on, help came in constant, rushing waves.  Somehow, the complete destruction of how I thought my life was supposed to go over the past few months didn’t seem so disastrous with the help of so many. My fellow co-worker, Jeff Burden, probably sums it better than I ever could,

“I am so thankful for all of the support that my family has received through this experience.  My church, my friends, my co-workers, my family, small businesses around Columbia and other people from around America have been so supportive.  Not only have,folks helped me tear out walls and clean my home, but my family has received everything from quilts and food to prayers and money from wonderful helpful people.  We would not have been able to get through this had it not been for the generosity of others.”

I have learned so much about myself and the world in the past few months. Despite seeing negativity constantly on the news, my faith in humanity is truly restored. I learned that it is TOTALLY ACCEPTABLE to ask for and accept help (I wasn’t sure I was ever going to learn that). I learned that the best experiences sometimes come out of unplanned, terrible situations. Cynthia Pierce, our registrar, in all of her grace, expressed her gratitude to me after having gone through the flood. She said, “Earl and I have been amazed at the ways God is still blessing us every day.”  I have found that even when everything seems lost, there is still so much value and love that exists in the world. Sometimes we simply have to shuffle through the mud, clean ourselves off, and allow others to help build us back up. This holiday season, I am thankful for a great support system and the opportunity to grow. Now that we are starting to move back into our home, I’m ready to start creating new lists and deadlines in my planner. The first item on the agenda is to send out an abundance of gratitude; then, I’ll get back to planning that nursery. 

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