We are forged in crises


There is an old saying that goes, ‘that which does not kill you makes you stronger.’ Like many old sayings, most of us probably pay no attention to it, or believe it’s nothing but hype. I must confess, I’m probably in that category.

Recently, though, I learned that this old saying in particular, is quite literally true.

My house caught fire in the middle of the night—it was an old house and unfortunately old houses sometimes do catch fire for the strangest reasons—causing my wife and I to have to evacuate with nothing but the pajamas we were wearing. The fire department responded quickly, but an old wooden house burns a lot faster than you might think, so by the time they had extinguished the blaze, it was a smoldering wreck. There we sat, the two of us, on the sidewalk at four in the morning, homeless with literally nothing left but the clothes on our back.

Such a tragedy might be the undoing of some people, and until that day, I would have thought it would be my undoing. It wasn’t, though.

When my wife woke up and discovered there was a fire in the house, she didn’t panic; she woke me up. Even though disoriented, I also didn’t panic. I had here grab the car keys—a car inside a garage when there’s a fire becomes a powerful bomb—so we could move the cars away from the house, and then we got out and while I moved the cars she ran to neighbors’ houses to wake them up.

The fire spread rapidly, so we were unable to get back inside to save anything else, but we didn’t succumb to despair. We made sure our neighbors were safe and when things calmed down, went with them to a hotel—our two cars did catch fire, but I was able to keep the fire from spreading to the gas tanks until the firemen could put them out. They were total losses but didn’t explode.

We are slowly putting our lives back together; getting identification cards and drivers’ licenses, access to bank accounts, new clothes, and looking for a new place to stay—staying with our daughter and her family while we do.

We can now talk about the crisis without emotion, thankful that we got out without injury, and although our house was totally destroyed, our neighbors only suffered minor exterior damage. We are also thankful that neighbors and friends from near and far reached out with offers of help, and many in the bureaucracy have shown compassion. A reaffirmation that human kindness still exists.

Most importantly, we have learned that we can face the unthinkable and not crumble. That we can stare crisis and danger in the face and not blink.

Our experience shows that the human spirit is stronger and more resilient than we know, and that we all have reservoirs of strength to tap into when the going gets tough. This is important as we continue to endure the global COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of getting tired and giving up, we need to dig down deep and grit it out until we’ve beaten this thing.

This has been, I know, a roundabout way to talk about dealing with the pandemic, but I had to share it. We’re not out of the woods yet, but the end is in sight.

This current crisis will not kill us, it will only make us stronger. – NWI