Grace Under Pressure
I live at the Jersey shore, but except for five days without heat, light or hot water, my family and I did just fine throughout Hurricane Sandy.
My community, however, did not fare so well. Thirty-three families in NJ lost a loved one. A friend in a nearby town who just got power back after two weeks e-mailed that she was okay, but of the 1,500 homes in her seaside town, 1,200 have been rendered uninhabitable. The woman on line at the supermarket was grateful to have a flood clean up job. The bar where she had worked had washed away. My neighbor, a mechanic, ran into two of his customers at the local quick-stop store. Both of them, houses gone.
There are thousands of those stories all over the northeast.
You can’t help but think. And here’s what comes to mind: Yes, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. But what matters more is that when the going gets tough, the tough get grace.
As in, for starters, keeping a civil tongue in your head. Not like the woman I saw while I was walking by the local gas station five days after Sandy. The woman was arguing with a cop that she absolutely needed gas for her generator. She had been on line for hours. She had to have that gas. But the station had just run out. There was no more gas.
The woman, said another cop observing, “is about to have an aneurysm.” And she was. Understandable, yes. Tempers were frayed. But still, that was not grace under pressure.
A young woman turned away from the same station, trudging the three miles to the next station, pushing her toddler in a stroller, was in tears.
God gave me the grace to offer her some comfort and ideas, and to pull up her little boy’s socks so maybe he’d be warmer. In the end, there wasn’t much I could do. I wanted to siphon some gas from my car, but I had no idea where it was. My husband was sitting somewhere, I didn’t know where, waiting to fill up. I talked with her a few minutes, helped her cross the highway, and gave her a hug. It wasn’t much, but I offered what I had. And gave a little inner prayer of thanks for grace.
When my gym, Centrex, got its power back way before some of the rest of us, the owner, Joe, let members and their families come in for delicious hot showers. And when former members came in, he says, hoping for a dose of hot water after five days of none, he just waved them through as he invited them to hang around to charge phones and for free wi fi.
I praised him for that. He blew off the praise and pointed to the guy lifting weights nearby. “That guy, he took a whole high school football team to clean out houses in Union Beach,” he said.
Both of them, grace under pressure. There are tons more stories like these, small gestures and large.
I thought some more. The common thread: Generosity. Helpful not only because it’s right but because it is who we are at our best. That’s grace.
Makes you feel this truth: In hurricanes, nor’easters, gas shortages and even in the face of others having an aneurysm, grace under pressure comes from the same spot. Within. Whether we have to don three layers and snuggle down under four more layers to sleep, or we’re safe and sound in some warm, dry place, the truth is the same. Go within. Still small voice. Listen.
It’s hard to hear the still small voice in the middle of a calamity. But it’s there. It’s necessary. It gives cops, young moms, business owners, school kids, dads and middle-aged ladies grace to do the right thing when it’s not so easy, but all the more vital because it’s not easy.
When she isn’t blogging for ThirdAge, Gay Norton Edelman writes about spirituality, relationships and balanced living for publications such as Beliefnet, "Family Circle," "Guideposts," "Parents," "Parenting," "Prevention" and others. A wife of 33 years, she lives suburban New Jersey where her hobbies include gardening, reading novels and napping. She is at work on her first book, "The Hungry Ghost," a self-help memoir about her 100-pound weight loss 17 years ago. You can read more of her work at www.gayedelman.com.