The only thing people love more than a Cinderella story is a good catastrophe.
People come out of the woodwork for a good catastrophe; they rush the court.
I call it "The Flood."
If someone in your family has cancer, you know about the flood. If you've lost a parent, or a child, or a spouse, you know about the flood. If you've endured a public humiliation, you know about the flood.
The flood is the influx of people that materialize out of thin air when you are in a state of catastrophe. The deluge of "Let us know if you need anything," "Call anytime," "Let's get lunch," "We're praying for you," and, if you're in the South, "Bless your heart."
If you're feeling alone, just wait for something horrific to happen and people will come in droves to get a front row seat to your hurt, your bravery, your healing, your redemption, your whole glorious story. People will want to be the ones to carry you, the ones who "knew you when." People will want to be the ones to give you the best advice, the most thoughtful offerings, the most sincere prayers. People will want to be the ones to know the most details, and the most intimate ones. People want to be the ones to hand you the tissue box.
When catastrophe strikes - like when our firstborn was diagnosed with Optic Nerve Hypoplasia and we learned she was blind - you are in a wasteland. It feels like everything around you is barren and there is not one single thing to hold on to. When catastrophe strikes, you are a man in the desert, clawing along, inhaling sand, praying desperate prayers for water.
The water is help; the water is hope; the water is someone who sees you. When you're dragging your undead self through the darkest days, you want someone to know. But when people catch wind of your catastrophe, you don't get a glass of water; you get a hurricane. You get The Flood.
I've weathered my share of catastrophes - my share of deserts and hurricanes - and this is what I've learned about The Flood:
You can resent it. You can say things like,
"Where were you before this happened?" "You never invited me to coffee before." "So now you decide to care?" "I haven't spoken to you in years." "You don't know anything about me." "Are you going to remember our situation a month from now? What about when we're six weeks into treatment? What about after the court date? What about the one-year anniversary of his death?"
You can accuse everyone of being a bunch of nosy ambulance-chasers. You can assume condescension, and you can feel patronized. You can gripe and rage against The Flood; you can moan about people only showing up when stuff goes wrong. You can pontificate about the insincerity and the over-the-top-ness of it all.
Or you can be thankful to high heaven that there are people in your life who give a crap.
You can choose to see people's eyes brimming with good intentions instead of nosiness. You can see sympathy instead of condescension. You can be gracious.
You can understand that time and friendship are limited resources, and you can be thankful that people chose to spend theirs on you in your hour of need. You can believe that people are doing the best they can.
You can believe that what you're really bucking against isn't condescension; it's vulnerability. You can allow yourself to be vulnerable, to be seen as you are, to be carried.
You can praise God for people that care, no matter how misplaced their concerns, no matter how ignorant their words.
What I've learned is to accept every prayer, every dinner invitation. I've learned to be honest about how I'm doing. I've learned to talk to someone. Not everyone, but someone.
I've learned to be thankful for The Flood. Because, believe me, it's always better to have a flood than not.
When have you experienced The Flood? Was it encouraging or suffocating? How do you handle the deluge?