Broom with a View
“Can you help me?” I got out of the car and arrived at the front door of my friend’s home and saw the waves—they were little, but they were waves—lapping up and over the threshold of his door. When we walked around, our feet were submerged under the water. We moved things from the floor to the bed and to other parts of the home that were drier. But even after we cleared the water, when we stepped on the rug, it still squished.
I know that we’ve seen rain, but I think the past week had more rainfall in a short amount of time than I had seen here before. Maybe that’s true for a lot of us. And the feeling of powerlessness over something outside of our control can be upsetting, terrifying, and even expensive. We are not alone in history. The fear of nature and its wrath is as old as humans themselves.
One of the oldest stories ever recorded comes to us from Sumerian mythology — The Epic of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh has many of the elements we see in heroic stories today, like understanding mortality, close camaraderie, trials of strength and cunning, and the quest for immortality. It also has a description of the great flood in which a human leader is chosen by a god to learn that a flood is coming and that the human should build a boat so that the human and the human’s family will be safe. I’m guessing this is starting to sound familiar.
Stories about nature repeat and repeat through time. Our myths and faiths hold tales of ways that humans survived through these trials. And these stories help some of us when we face seemingly insurmountable odds. These stories also tell us something about the power of ideas to survive generations, millennia even. Even today, contemporary stories still feature tales about a select few surviving annihilation of the human race who then have to rebuild it. I can just scroll through any online viewing platform to see television shows and movies all about the select few who make it through something that seems to get everyone else.
I realize that sweeping a few inches of water across a concrete floor with a straw broom and wringing out old beach towels until your hands are sore might not evoke the struggle of humanity to survive (as difficult as it was). But as we were sweeping and wringing I was wondering what else was going on for my friend. In the morning he’d gotten news that a person close to him had tried to end their life. The flood of emotions must have been powerful, maybe overwhelming in some ways.
See, for me, flood stories aren’t about water—they are about the floods in us and the voices that tell us how to survive. These voices make the epics of our own lives. They ask us how we are using our voice. They ask us what we will do with a second chance. And they ask us how we will answer the question, “Can you help me?” I hope you bring a broom.
And may it ever be so.
Rev. T. J.