What if this was me?
My natural inclination is to say, “I can’t imagine what it must be like.” The truth is that I can imagine it, at least a little bit, but I don’t want to imagine it. More truthfully, I can imagine the concrete facts—envision my house and superimpose this photo over my vision—but I can’t imagine the feelings of the people in this photo. I can’t enter their souls and feel their emotions when they sit amidst this destruction. So if I imagine the feelings, it’s the feelings that I might have if it were me.
It’s too unpleasant to think about for long. A lot of important questions are this way: too painful to think about, so we avoid thinking about them.
If we’re honest, we’re all good at avoiding painful questions. That is, until we’re confronted firsthand with a tragedy like this. The communities levelled. Trailer homes and brick mansions alike destroyed, scattered like children’s toys across the nursery floor. An entire family dies because they have no shelter when a F-5 tornado blasts through their home. Now it’s an unavoidable question.
What if this was me?
What would I do? Look at the pile of match sticks that used to be my home and feel numb, shocked, beyond words? Tell the news reporters, “I’ve lost my family”? Frantically search for my laptop computer? Thank God for the army of volunteers that help me or curse God for the tragedy that makes help necessary?
When all that is left of my possessions is a pile of brick and mortar . . .
When all the clothes in my closet have dwindled down to the ones on my back . . .
When all the work saved on my computer is destroyed . . .
When all my family and neighbors, friends and acquaintances are gone . . .
What’s left of me?
Did I let myself be defined by my possessions, the clothes I complained didn’t fit, the jots and tittles on a page on a computer screen? Did I define myself only in relation to other people, being only his wife, her mother, their daughter?
Or did I define myself by something other than my self and all its trappings?
When everything around me is gone and I stand alone in the wake of a tragedy, what would I have left? What would be left of me?
What would be left of you?