What Is Left In Our Wake

It was a Saturday afternoon. A tornado was on the ground, heading our way and it was to be moments before our house would be one of the next hit in its path.

I held my 18-month old daughter and sat on the toilet seat in our small bathroom on the main floor with pillows and blankets to throw over her if I needed to. For what felt like days, but was no more than 20 minutes, my maternal instinct guided my one sentence prayer: God, puh-lease protect us. And if you don’t, then take me and not her.

When the storm passed and we emerged from shelter, it was then that we realized what it left in its wake. Thankfully, a few snapped branches were the only proof that the storm has passed by our house. Less than a mile away, uprooted trees, houses without roofs, and debris scattered everywhere was left in the wake of a very powerful, devastating storm.

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There was that one meeting, where hostile exchanges drove the conversation. Backhanded jabs and insults disguised as questions were all together hurtful, rude and at a minimum, unprofessional. Instead of uniting around a cause, the conversation drove those in the room to be more divided than ever.

When the meeting ended and everyone emerged from the conference room, hurt feelings, frustration, and anger were left in the wake of a very powerful, devastating conversation.

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And then there was the conversation around the dinner table, celebrating a marathon victory of two dear friends. There was vulnerability and honesty and the talk of dreams that had come true and some that hadn’t during the race. There was the comfort of Mexican food and the compassion and encouragement and love of friends who were doing life together.

When the dinner ended and everyone rose to put their dishes away, there were hugs, and laughter and tears of joy and pride and gratitude. In the wake of that conversation, celebration emerged along with a commitment to keep setting goals and accomplishing them.

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As I was thinking about all of these events, each of these moments, it occurred to me that in every conversation, every meeting, every time I respond to the same question that A has asked thirteen times in a row. Every text, every interaction with a service provider or waitress or flight attendant. Every friend who needs to talk, every co-worker who wants to brainstorm, every time I’m frustrated in traffic, stuck in the longest, slowest checkout line, my actions, reactions and words mean that I am leaving stuff in my wake. We all are.

What do I want to leave in my wake? What about you? When there is proof of where we’ve been or who we’ve talked to or what we’ve said, what do we want that proof to look like? What evidence will we leave?

Would I respond more slowly? Would I consider another perspective? Would I compliment and encourage and celebrate more? Would I listen more and speak less? Would I say I love you more?

What needs to change, what areas need my attention so that those who are left in my wake would have experienced love and grace and acceptance and hope after our interaction? What about you?

Here’s to leaving our communities and those in our lives with wakes of encouragement and hope and compassion and empathy as we make our way in the world.

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