It’s been a year.
It’s been a year since the rains came down and the floods came up. Our son and his family are back in their house in High River, but it’s still a construction zone.
The kids are back playing soccer and baseball, but I see some of them watching the approaching rain clouds as much as they watch the ball.
The middle school band plays at an outdoor concert for an audience of proud parents, grandparents and siblings who step around puddles in the gravelled yard.
The temporary business structures beside the Saturday artisan’s tents have become the new downtown.
When I ask my granddaughter how her friends are doing she says everything is different , but different is kind of normal now.
Then she asks, “Do you think it’s going to rain like that again?”
There’s a greater maturity, but also something akin to a lost innocence in High River. I suppose that is what happens after any disaster, or after any change in the definition of normal. Whether it’s a flood, a tornado, a serious illness – or a betrayal, wherever we experience unexpected loss we can no longer say, “That would never happen.”
Now we know it can.
And now that we know we are left standing in the playing field on a Saturday morning in June checking the sky for signs of rain, wondering if it will happen again.
“Folks are a bit twitchy when the forecast is for heavy rain in the mountains,” a merchant/artist told me. “It’s understandable -especially for the kids.”
The thing about lost innocence is that it is one thing that can never be restored. You cannot un-see things. When I’m with my family it seems like half a dozen times a day I hear the phrase, “We had one of those, but it was lost in the flood.” My grandchildren don’t have bikes or outdoor toys because even though we offered to replace them, they don’t have anywhere to store them yet. The shed containing their old bikes and toys was also lost in the flood, and that image is still with them.
Innocence may not be restored but many other things can be. Bikes and sheds and houses can be restored. Purity can be restored. Faith can be restored. Respect, hope, joy, peace, confidence can all be rebuilt, but they require new firmer foundations than the absence of the experience of suffering.
I asked an older gentleman how he saw the town now, 365 days after the rushing water that poured down from the mountains changed everything.
“It’s the best thing that ever happened to this community, ” he said.
“Why do you say that?”
“We discovered what it means to be a community,” he answered. “We discovered what it means to have real friends, and who our real friends are. We discovered what it is to work together for more than our own comforts. We discovered the generosity of strangers. We discovered what it is to need help and give help. We discovered faith.”
He smiled sincerely when he said this. He had genuine joy.
“Not everyone is back in their homes yet and a lot of businesses are still in temporary quarters or not even up and running at all. We hope it doesn’t rain like that again, but you know, we also hope it does so we will know if the steps toward flood mitigation are working. We hope another disaster doesn’t happen anywhere in Canada, but we also hope the things we have learned here can be put to use if there is one – when there is one.”
Loss of innocence is being reconciled to the reality of sin in people around us and in ourselves. Loss of innocence is acknowledging that all is not right in the world. The Bible says all creation groans until things are put right again. For some who have survived disaster there lingers an increased fear and greater sensitivity to pain which results in anxiety that hums in the background like the drone of a machine that never shuts off . For some there grows a greater faith that seems to free them from fear of the future. I watched this gentleman in a crowd after church, smiling and greeting folks, shaking hands and giving hugs when he met someone he hadn’t seen for a while. After I took the kids home for lunch I remembered his words.
“The flood showed us that God is faithful and even though we have been down and bone-weary, we now know that with His help we are much stronger than we ever thought we could be.”