Tornado Wisdom….What Personal Tragedies Teach Us

Many of you may know that our family lake home was hit by a tornado last month. It was (is) devastating. When a roof is torn off during a storm of this magnitude, the water damage is unbelievable. We lost the ceilings, floors, electrical, all the HVAC, and most of the furniture and contents which were inside. This place is very special to us, and the challenge to attempt to salvage and restore is daunting, to say the least. Yet, we have learned a great deal through this experience, which are ‘life lessons’ applicable in business as well as life.

  1. One may not ever fully realize the legacy one has left. When my sister and I began to contact resources to help us navigate the restoration, we were (and continue to be ) humbled by the outpouring of support. Without any question, the individuals who are bending over backwards to assist us are doing so in large part to the legacy Daddy and his identical twin created over their lifetime. When people learned what had happened, electricians, architects, bankers, accountants, etc. came out of the woodwork to offer wisdom, advice, and sweat equity to help us through the process. More than once, we were moved to tears by the overflowing generosity in time and spirit; as this was/is a testament to the lives our daddy and uncle lived. Daddy had built his business on the philosophy that his handshake was his bond. That anchored approach stood the test of time over the decades they were in business….and that legacy has lived on after their passing. I am quite certain Daddy nor Uncle Ben ever even thought about their ‘legacy’ – as they were virtually ego-less men. They lived lives of integrity, humility, and a ‘Golden Rule’ mentality – because they wanted to do the right thing….not because they were attempting to create or build a ‘legacy’. That is a powerful point and one from which we can all learn.
  2. Kindness is never irrelevant. As Gretchen and I continue down this emotional and time-sucking process of re-building, the importance of being kind, patient, and grateful continues to be reinforced. The old saying ‘flies with honey’ has never been more true. Everyone is so busy and everyone has many people, projects, and pressures pulling on them. As my momma has always said, “You are not the only ones with a ‘sack of rocks’ to carry”. Everyone has ‘something’. EVERYONE. Thus, we have continued to learn that being kind to others, especially when faced with a tumultuous and catastrophic situation, has a value beyond surface currency. Being kind, thoughtful, patient, and above all being GRATEFUL for individuals  – through whatever capacity our paths have crossed – is the bedrock for building authentic relationships. Never underestimate what a simply ‘thank you’, a warm smile, or a funny joke (especially when you are up to your ankles in wet insulation or soggy, soiled furnishings!) can do to build a bond in the toughest of situations. Gretchen and I believe we have built lifelong friendships through this situation – as there is something magical that happens when you ‘go through fire’ with another human being. Love is ever present and truly is the glue which binds all things.
  3. There are no accidents. Yes, I wrote a book on the belief that incidental encounters (or situations) are not incidental at all. I believe all things happen for us (or to us!) to learn something through the experience. We have learned resiliency. We have a heightened appreciation for those individuals who have never wavered in their loyalty and friendship. We value the talents, expertise, and courage of those with whom we are working. We realize things are just things – though we love the history of our lake home – the memories are not the ‘things’. Paying attention to ‘what we are to learn’ has been a fascinating and growth-enhancing experience.
  4. FAITH and GRATITUDE are the life-blood of life.  Gretchen and I have marveled at how anyone can get through life’s challenges without Faith. Whether this is losing our daddy a little over a year ago, facing our momma’s devastating diagnosis late last year, the passing of our uncle a few months ago, and the latest hurdle being the tornado damage of our family lake home….one thing is for certain: FAITH in a HIGHER POWER offers a soft landing, a comfort, and fervent truth that we WILL get through this with a Divine Hand’s support. And we are GRATEFUL for each and every individual who has crossed our paths before and during this process. Grateful to Charles who during the height of the storm, scaled the house, mounted the roof to attach the tarp which protected what few contents we still had left. Grateful to Sheri who is always there with a smile, calm demeanor, and guileless perspective to support our family. Grateful to the countless resources who have come to our aid  – whether it be in Hot Springs or in Dallas. And grateful to our friendships new and life-long, who are there to offer love, support, food, drink, broad shoulders, and wise advice.

So, though this was/is a situation we would not wish on anyone, we can (and are) embracing the lessons and heightened awareness which come with the experience. Faith is the answer. Gratitude is the renewing energy. “Thy will be done” is the ardent prayer. And as the time-seasoned adage offers, most of our greatest lessons in life come from our most difficult challenges. This is no different – and for this we will remain grateful.