You will not be the same after the storms of life; you will be stronger, wiser and more alive than ever before.
– Bryant McGill
I’ve been called unflappable. I’ve been labeled a survivor. Inscrutable by nature or perhaps by nurture. Storms don’t scare me. In fact, against my better judgement, I usually run into them. If it’s raining, I’ll head outside and jump in a puddle. If there’s a thunderstorm, I’ll open the window and watch the elaborate natural spectacle. Snowstorms don’t quite do it for me, but I can still appreciate their boldness and overall brightness.
While all storms carry the potential to be catastrophes, most of them are easy to prepare for and quick to recover from. But every so often, a storm comes that makes us question humanity’s lack of control and prediction capabilities. Clusters of tornados can rip apart communities. A single hurricane can destroy enormous infrastructures. Fires can burn uncontrollably for hundreds of miles. And a tsunami can rise and wipe out several seaside towns. While at times we can predict these catastrophes, the only way out of them is to wait until they’re over and rebuild.
Safety is defined as the condition of being safe from undergoing or causing hurt, injury, or loss. We can never be safe from Mother Nature’s unpredictability. But in my lifetime, I’ve been blessed to be relatively safe from most extreme dangers. As a citizen of the northeastern section of the United States of America, I’m lucky to have dodged massive hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, and wildfires. We’ve had a few storms that knock out the power for several days at a time, but since God made generators, I’ve been fortunate. I’ve never had to struggle through homelessness, a food shortage, or fear that war was going to destroy my town while I slept. I’m lucky. I recognize and accept that. The safety I’ve become accustomed to is a privilege.
I’ve been in my fair share of situations that weren’t safe, but those were mainly based on my terrible decision-making skills.
I’ve since learned some valuable lessons; therefore, I’m thankful for the opportunity to feel real fear and real bravery. When I’m in a scary situation, I learn how to depend on myself. I learn to trust myself.
Freedom is defined as the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. America is known as the land of the free. We’ve only been at this freedom experiment for six generations, but we’ve done it gracefully. As we grow, we include more and more citizens under the freedom umbrella. Our latest addition was the LGTB community, but previous inclusions have been females and citizens of color. As time goes on, we learn to make freedom more accessible to all.
Freedom is a powerful notion. As Toni Morison says, “You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” In order to be free, we gave away the support of a powerful empire. In return, we were able to build one of the strongest and most capable militaries in the world. We had to give up our safety to create our freedom. And we did.
Which is Greater?
Different storms call for different precautions. You wouldn’t hunker down if a tsunami were coming. You’d run. And you wouldn’t run from a tornado. You’d find the lowest floor possible and hunker down. Our current storm — a contagious and novel pathogen that can cause death and chaos — requires us to give up our freedom for safety. While we still have our freedom of religion, speech, and press, we’ve given up our freedom to be mobile, our freedom to make a living, and our freedom to visit with the ones we love. People will die.
Benjamin Franklin is known for saying, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
We earned our freedom and we earned our safety, but now we must give up our freedom for temporary safety. There is no other way to do it.
After six generations of increasing freedoms, it’s a culture shock to give it away. If Franklin were alive today, he’d agree that some enemies require us to forego some freedom for physical safety. He’d likely be ready to learn this new lesson for the sake of our country. Foregoing freedom doesn’t come easily to a nation with the number of liberties we are privileged to have. But it is something we must come to accept.
Franklin likely never imagined a novel pathogen would invasively spread on our soil from a country 7,500 miles away. He had no idea war could be waged without militaries and weapons. He probably couldn’t have conceived that soldiers would be replaced by science, compassion from our free citizens, and voluntary isolation in our homes. This is our current reality. This is our current storm. This is our current enemy.
Who are we?
We’re a resilient nation. We’re a six-generation experiment in freedom and safety. We’re a nation that learns its lessons. We may learn them the hard way, but the best lessons and revelations occur after the storm passes. While the storm is still here, we must wait until it is over. Hunker down. And prepare to learn valuable lessons. This won’t be the only pathogen to hit our soil. What will we discover for next time?
After a major loss, there’s a commensurate gain — if we can learn our lessons and heal our wounds. And there will be wounds. There always are. But how will we lick them? How will we heal them?
We all know how to overcome adversity. We’ve all faced our own trials and tribulations. Let’s face this one with the lessons we’ve learned from those experiences. There will be pain, there will be death, there will be gaps of uncertainty, but only time will tell how it unfolds. Let’s ride it out.
Like the New Hampshire state motto says, “Live free or die.” The choice is yours.