Approximately two days before Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, I was flying back to my then home in College Station.
Due to an unbelievable chain of events and real comedy of errors involving an oversized pilot’s lack of a seatbelt extender, our flight from DFW to CLL was very delayed. By the time we got up into the air, what should have been a 45-minute flight turned into well over an hour. As I looked out the window and did not recognize any of the scenery (this is a flight I knew very well!), I started to wonder what was going on. Shortly after, the pilot came over the speaker to inform us that we would be emergency landing in Houston due to severe pre-Harvey weather hitting College Station.
After landing in Houston and receiving mixed messages about what the plan was (you guys know how this goes and if you don’t, use your best imagination!), the pilot finally told us to de-board the plane and make plans to stay there all night.
Well, it seemed silly to stay in Houston, given that College Station is only about 2 hours away, and as I was getting off the small plane with my thoughts spinning, I heard a guy ask another girl if she wanted to share an Uber instead of waiting at the mercy of the airline. I tapped him on the shoulder and asked if I could join.
And just like that, two complete strangers became two new friends in a matter of minutes!
At about 10 pm, the three of us shared an Uber back to College Station in the middle of Houston’s hurricane evacuation. We laughed, we slept, we bonded over our shared experience. These two people whom I never would have met under normal circumstances, but whom I loved after only 15 minutes.
Long story short, we made it home, we survived the hurricane, and a few months later, I decided to join a new boutique gym in town. I walked in and one of my Harvey friends was the gym’s yoga instructor! Naturally, we jumped in excitement and hugged. Of course, we did. We had bonded in the middle of chaos.
I bring this story up because I want to remind you of the power of disasters. Crisis brings people together, sometimes in the form of a Seinfeld episode. Emergencies have the gift of reminding us of our shared humanity with EVERYONE, not just the people in our immediate circles. Catastrophes remind us of the beauty of our interdependence. After all, we are individuals, but we are not independent (let’s rid our vocabularies of this word!). Be your unique individual self, but don’t attempt independence. No one was meant to live this life alone.
So I want to ask you: What story are you going to tell when Coronageddon ends? Because while we might not know the “when,” we can be sure that this too shall pass.
Yes, I know we are in a quarantine. I know we are social distancing. I am aware of the unique health challenges and financial uncertainty that many are facing. I know that these are serious times.
But I urge you to get out of your own head and look around. Open your eyes to the people you meet when you pick up your mail, take out the trash, or walk your dog.
Do you have neighbors you never took the time to meet that you could talk to over your balconies? Will the grocery store clerk become your new bestie? Maybe you’ll finally learn the name of the pharmacist who refills your ongoing prescriptions.
Open your hearts and open your minds and open your freaking eyes. Don’t get so stuck in fear and panic that you miss the opportunities that are right in front of you. You will be presented with the people and circumstances that you need. Don’t lose sight of the fact that right now THIS IS IT and all we have is each other.
I urge you to stay open. To the people you are supposed to meet during this time. To the people you are supposed to reconnect with during this time. To the people you currently live with. To the community you are always surrounded by, but may take for granted.
How are you going to show up during quarantine? Because it is most definitely your CHOICE. How are you going to tune-in and connect with yourself and those around you?
Where there are extreme limitations, there are also infinite possibilities.
Stay open. Spread love, choose joy, practice gratitude. Focus on what you CAN control.
Most importantly, stay home and make stories. I can’t wait to hear the stories we will have to tell as a collective community, state, country, and world when this is over.
And so help me God, they better not just be about toilet paper shortages.