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reSLience… a.k.a. resilience

it's what lies within that really matters

Yesterday there was something that happened on the freeway commute that was so horrific I didn’t really take time to think too much about it. I couldn’t. It was too terrifying. Unfortunately, I made it home just in time to hear the top local news story and there it was again. This time in not vivid detail, but enough to make me feel nauseous and wish I hadn’t made the kids switch Spongebob to the news for me.

I tried to put it out of my mind and go about my crazed evening hosting for the beautiful Jendalicious at the Glamshack. It worked. I forgot about it. I didn’t feel that well when I went to bed but figured it was just from being tired at the end of a long day.

When I awoke this morning… I knew I had to blog and get it out. I knew that my mind had peculated on it all throughout the night and I must share these thoughts. Not to gross anyone out but with a specific purpose of a higher order. To remind us all that we must never take each other for granted, and above all, remember how fragile human beings are – not just emotionally, but physically as well. If you are eating breakfast right now you might want to come back and read later…

Yesterday there was a man who was walking along the freeway… a Navajo man. His last name was Yellowhair. I am particularly sensitive to those types of things having lived and taught many many Native American students, mostly Navajo, for years in Northern Arizona. My ears immediately perked up when I heard his name on the news because I knew there is a clan, a network of people, somewhere mourning him. For some reason that made it so much more personal to me.

Anyway, for some reason he had left his car and was walking along the freeway. One report said he was walking in and out of traffic. All this in the wee hours of the morning sometime after 4 am. Was he drugged or drunk and disoriented? No comment of that. Should we assume he was suicidal? Perhaps.

The horrific part is he was struck. Not just once by someone who stopped to help. He was struck by 5 cars that sustained serious damage to their vehicles who stopped or later reported they were involved. He was struck by perhaps an additional 10 to 15 vehicles, including commerical vehicles, that no longer knew it was a person… a human being. They had to shut down the freeway for a huge stretch – 80 yards – to recover the pieces of Mr. Yellowhair. They had to gather his parts and clean it all up. Now while writing this I feel like vomiting, I also feel like sobbing.

You may wonder why the heck get so emotional over someone you don’t even know, over a news story that could happen in any city, when there are tragedies that happen anywhere and everywhere all the time worldwide? Why let this one get to me? Something in the news story triggered something deep inside me: an image of a DPS officer carrying a single black man’s dress/work shoe. First it made me think – wow, those guys have an unspeakably hard job. Ewwwww and ugh. Second it made me think – that man, Mr. Yellowhair, at the end of his life, was treated no better than an animal on the road. In fact, they think that is why people didn’t stop who hit him, they figured it was just an animal and kept on going. Not that hitting animals makes it better but… heavy sigh.

Flashback to 10 years ago and I am reminded of a very personal situation in my teaching career when I had 2 students (not ones I directly taught) but good friends of students I had in class. A small piece of paper was delivered to my classroom twice in a short few weeks. The paper that contained a note I was required to read to my students. The note that shared with my students that a horrific thing had happened… each of the students had chosen to take their own lives stepping in front of oncoming freight trains just a few miles from our high school. I remember the sick feeling of the reality of what a train does to a human body. It was that same sick feeling that came back to me yesterday and still sits in the bottom of my stomach now.

While you can’t focus on the particulars too long without feeling overwhelmed (which is why I must blog this to get it out), it is important to ponder long enough to remind each of us how fragile life is. We become way too immune to the atrocities human beings commit against one another and the random accidents and natural disasters that occur every day causing unnatural death because it is blasted to us over and over again in the media every day, every hour if you really want to search cable tv. We compartmentalize it. We choose to not think about it and go about our daily to do lists as if these things didn’t happen. I suppose that is the better way to go.

I have to share with you my very very personal strategy though of coping with such things. It is a freeway survival strategy, a daily strategy I practice. I pray. I say blessings on each of my kids and my husband and kiss them and hug them right before I leave. No matter what, I never want my last words to them to be anything less than that. I don’t want something horrific to happen to me and have them remember my last words being something stupid or trivial. I also say blessings over each one of them… just that simple word… just a simple phrase… “blessings on you” as a means of protection. God honors that. I know He does.

When I see an accident, or like yesterday, when I first heard the news of that accident, I silently said a prayer for that man and his family. Somewhere he had once been someone’s baby, someone’s brother, maybe even someone’s father. Those people would be hearing those same news stories through grief stricken horror. I try to wish people well who cut me off and do stupid things driving. Really. Sounds silly I know – but I heard of it once in a brain research session – it relieves the stress. If they are driving so stupidly as to almost cause an accident, perhaps they are in a much bigger hurry. Wishing them well somehow takes the pressure off. But when I see an accident on the side of the road, I pray.

Life is fragile. Human beings are not invincible. We spend much of our time in this world consumed with media that would have us believe otherwise. While we can be and do almost anything, at the end of the day, we are a collection of soft tissues that can only bear so much. Please be gentle with those you come in contact with… with their spirits, with their minds, and with their physical beings. Life is short. Remind people that you love them. Give them a hug, take the time to smile, and please be aware of who is around you. Offer up a few prayers of your own for those who may be in such a dark space that they can’t find the right words to ask for help. Be with Mr. Yellowhair’s family in just a fleeting moment of prayer, and all the others out there like him who didn’t have someone offering blessings on him when he set out on his journey yesterday.

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