Milwaukee, my home town, made the national news this past week because of record setting flooding. In some parts of the area seven inches of rain fell in a fifty minute period. Several feet of water was common in homes and business that had never flooded before. Some homes were flooded up to through the first floor. A couple of giant sink holes developed, including one that swallowed up a full-sized SUV. All around the city people spent the weekend cleaning their flooded basements. Neighbors helped neighbors haul damaged carpet, boxes and furniture to the curb, where it awaits pick up by the city public works department. The size of the pile in front of a given house is a public sign of the severity of the flood damage the house endured. It is also easy to tell the specific blocks that were hit the hardest because every house on both sides of the street in those blocks have their large piles of debris. As flood victims recover from their suffering, there is at least one important lesson we can learn when it comes to wellness.
The first, and most important, is that suffering is always lessened when it can be shared. When we suffer a loss, nothing helps more than the ability to talk about it, the ability to tell our story of what we have experienced. Literally everyone I have been in touch with the last four days, whether in person, on Facebook, or through email, has been sharing their flood stories as they work through both the physical and emotional damage of their losses. The raw emotions of anger, laughter and tears have been flowing every bit as much as the rainwater flowed last week. As painful as the flooding has been for so many, there is something very moving about seeing the way so many people have come to together to support one another. Some people have compared it to the weeks after Katrina in New Orleans, or times when our city has been crippled by a major snowstorm.
The asking for and/or giving support to or from our neighbor is relatively easy when we have experienced loss from a flood, or other “natural” disaster. As we have seen again here in Milwaukee this week, that support makes all the difference. This got me to thinking, how wonderful it would be if we could just as easily ask for and offer support when we experience other kinds of losses as well, such as a job loss, the loss of a loved one, or a significant physical or emotional distress. What if there was a way to publicly mark our homes when we were experiencing loss, just as the curbside debris now marks the homes that have suffered loss from the floods here in Milwaukee? All of us in Milwaukee are either suffering from, or know someone who is suffering from last week’s flood. And all of you reading this, wherever you live, are either working through or know someone who is working through other kinds of losses in their lives right now. In the spirit of what we have seen in our area this week, let’s resist the urge to isolate from one another and instead come together as neighbors to help each other recover and heal in times of loss.