In 2004, just days after Hurricane Ivan dropped a tree thru my front wall, my parents decided that it was time they left Meridian and went back to Mobile to check on the house and begin post-storm life and whatever that might entail. I was out of danger and they knew that the community I was a part of was going to take care of me until they could come back. They packed the truck and got my Grandmother and their lab, Bela, all tucked in and back out of the driveway. I stood in the street and watched the tail lights fade into the distance. I was 32. I felt more like 7. I was terrified, had no idea what was next, and everything that felt safe and comforting was driving away.
Recognize the feeling? Of course you do. We’ve all been there. The first day of a new school. The day your parents drop you off at your dorm freshman year of college. A move to a new town. The first day of a new job. That moment when your stomach turns over and everything inside you wants to run back to last place you felt safe and hold on for dear life.
For the last month or so I have been working part time at a local assisted living facility. Tonight was my last evening before a new full time job begins next week. During my shift a new resident was scheduled to move into her apartment. Her family had come several times during the week to move in furniture and set things up so it was ready for her. The community had done their job, making sure that her name was on her door, her keys ready, emergency information given, meal times, beauty shop, activity schedule, and even a little welcome gift were all ready for her arrival. Her daughter signed in and let us know that she would staying with her mother for the weekend to get her settled and acclimated. The little lady sat quietly in her wheelchair, dressed like she would going to bed pretty soon. Her daughter began to push her chair and said “here we go” in a bright, optimistic tone. The reply, tentative and unsure, was simply a quiet “okay”. And, it broke my heart.
In that moment all I could think was “oh my gosh – I know that feeling.” This little lady is in a place that is strange and new and different. She’ll have her things around her and opportunities to make new friends and participate in the life of the community as she is able. But, at some point in the couple of days, her family will get in their car and they will leave her there. It’s a lovely place with good people – but right now – it’s scary and unsettling.
The universal truth in all of this is our human need to feel safe and secure and loved. This can come from family or co-workers or church or whatever group of family and friends we create. We need to feel that the next time we find ourselves watching the tail lights fade that there is going to be a hand to take or a friend to call or a smile that says “you’re not alone.” For some making those connections comes easily. But, for some of us, it’s more difficult. Think about that the next time you see a new face in the crowd – one that looks a little lost or scared.
I mentioned a new job that begins next week. It’s not only a new job, it’s a completely new direction from where I’ve been the last 10 years. A welcome change for sure, but scary. That will be followed by a new apartment community. I’m already venturing into a new church. All good things in the place I wanted to be. I’m hopeful for new connections even as I struggle to make them happen, while ever grateful for the safety of home and family and the strength they give me to keep moving past the fear into whatever comes next.