I continue to pray for the people of Oklahoma who suffered such horrible loss from several devastating tornados there three weeks ago. There continue to be many heartfelt stories coming out of the terrible losses that so many people experienced. There are stories of great pain and heartache, along with stories of heroism and neighbors helping neighbors in both simple and profound ways.
There is, however, a parallel series of stories that have also come out of these recent tornados and I find them quite perplexing. These stories increasingly accompany all incidences of tornados and other types of severe storms. What I am referring to is the stories of storm chasers. Storm chasers are people who drive around in cars and vans to photograph tornados with the hopes of getting as close as possible to them without getting harmed. As far as I know, up until the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma this high risk practice by storm chasers had caused many close calls with disaster, but each time the storm chases had managed to avoid harm. This all changed when three storm chasers in the same car were killed in chasing one of the recent Oklahoma tornados.. Those who died included a fifty-five year old seasoned storm chaser and his son. Three other storm chasers were fortunate to survive even though the same tornado that killed the others lifted their van into the air and dropped it 200 yards away.
In some ways I should not be completely surprised by the fact that some people love to chase storms. As a priest and a psychotherapist I have known many people through the years who also seemed to love chasing storms. These storm chasers were of a different sort, in that they weren’t chasing meteorological storms, but were chasing emotional and relational storms. They seem to find this other kind of storms to be exciting and in some way are drawn to them. These storm chasers are the kind of people who seem to always have some kind of “drama” in their lives. The key word here is always, because people who are storm chasers seem to habitually be drawn to drama, negative people, and negative influences in their lives. They seem to always be either chasing or causing storms. While we certainly want to be compassionate with all people, and reach out and try to help them, we want to avoid getting unnecessarily drawn into the storms of others for our own sake.
In our Living Compass wellness program we talk a great deal about learning to live from the “inside out.” Living from the “inside out’ means making the intentional choices for ourselves that will enhance our emotional, spiritual, relational, and physical well-being. It also means avoiding influences, people, and situations that will negatively affect our well-being. If we find ourselves habitually surrounded by negativity of one sort or another then we will usually find that we are living form the “outside, in” and are allowing external forces to drive our choices.
Of course storms come in to all of our lives at times. Unexpected things happened and we find ourselves in the midst of an unavoidable storm. Job loss, health concerns, loss of a loved one, relationship conflict, organizational conflict, and depression or anxiety, are just some of the storms that can come into any person’s life at any time. Given this fact, I know for myself that I simply do not have the time or energy to be chasing other storms that are avoidable. Besides, as we learned from what just happened in Oklahoma, chasing storms can be dangerous, even deadly–not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually. That’s why I, for one, will continue to try and avoid the storms I can, so that I have the energy and wellness to face and work through the storms that from time to time I must face.