Note: This was written after last weekend, when many basements in Chicago flooded. Our plumbing is now fixed, though it might take a few rainstorms before I stop checking our drains.
Usually, I like the sound of rain at night.
The gentle shower, the drumming downpour,
The splashing gush against the concrete beneath our window.
But not right now!
Now, with our plumbing issues, even the slightest shower jolts my husband and I awake.
We spring from bed and
Descend to the basement,
To hover over the drains and watch
As water—and the body wastes we thought we’d said goodbye to with the flush of the toilet—
Seep across the floor,
Completely oblivious to our lack of welcome.
My world grows small over the next two days—
I concern myself with the weather forecast;
With the flow of water from the two hoses
Attached to the two pumps
That—hallelujah!—are keeping the water from creeping up the walls;
with emptying the trash can we have wedged under the roof downspout before it gets too heavy for me to push
(During storms, “too heavy” happens every 10 minutes, and I have to wake my husband—whose turn it is to sleep—for help).
Our conversation centers on water height and storm tracking;
We resort to “potty talk” for levity—
“Oh,” my husband says, remarking on a floaty, “Someone had corn for dinner!”—
Yet, on my watch, when I set an alarm on my phone for a twenty-minute nap—hoping the pumps will run uninterrupted till I wake up—and then lie there, wondering why I cannot sleep when my body is so, so tired,
My mind brings up images outside my own little water-washed world:
The husband and wife huddled in a freezing-cold pool in California while they watched their house burn to the ground.
The people trapped under fallen buildings in Mexico City and those working to find them.
The man in Puerto Rico drinking dangerously dirty water because he is literally dying of thirst.
Even our plumber’s other clients, some with water and sewage up to their waists in their basements.
These cross my mind slowly, one fading out as another takes its place. I do not sense that these images are meant to shame me for my own frustration at our comparatively minor troubles or even to minimize our situation.
But rather to knit my heart into solidarity with others, to properly align the walls of my world, to move me into prayer beyond myself—not just for these strangers but for family, friends, neighbors,
To move my island, awash in its individual swamp, near to someone else’s island—so that up close I discover the blue sparkly water I spied from afar is not so clear. It has floaties, too.
I am unable see others as God does: God’s light illumines all hearts; God’s mind knows all troubles; God’s spirit enters into everyone’s pain; God’s heart can somehow grieve with all who sorrow.
I have no such capacity, nor should I.
But I can ask for help in turning my telescope around. I can ask for my narrow, self-focused heart and gaze to grow, to be stretched, to see and feel pain and frustration and sorrow outside my own, beyond that of my family and friends and those with whom I identify.
Almighty God, who hast poured upon us the new light of thine incarnate Word: Grant that the same light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen