Today, I got caught in a torrential downpour with my mother. A survivor herself, currently she is struggling bravely through rehabilitation to regain use of her arm and learn to walk again after a debilitating fall and surgery.
Coming from dinner with friends, I slowly had to maneuver her and her wheelchair from the car into her convalescent center in the pouring rain. It was a slow process, which could not be rushed despite the buckets of Southern rain dumping on us. Beyond damp or a little wet, we both got biblically soaked.
Once inside, we were hit with a blast of air conditioning and both began to shake with chills. But as soon as we reached the nurses station in our drenched state, there was a flurry of concerned activity.
People rushing from every direction to help. There were suddenly towels and quick assistance in getting my mother into dry clothes and a warm bed. I was offered more towels and a change of clothes, which I refused focusing instead of getting my mother settled in. I knew I would be home soon where I could shower and change.
Afterwards, when I was headed home alone still soaked, I saw a large and powerful rainbow arching over the clouds above our house.
There are unique levels of concern and aid in times of crisis and trauma. But, there are also situations and reactions which can be very isolating. There is a thin line between the beauty of a rainbow and the devastation of a storm. These lines are often defined by the people involved and can be very hard on the survivors.
Instantaneous trauma can trigger a surge in assistance. In general, following an accident or injury, people will run to provide assistance or call for help. After a diagnosis of illness, family and friends will come together to offer help and provide support. A person in immediate need, or directly after trauma, usually finds many types of support in abundance.
Long term trauma can have the opposite affect. People may empathize and have genuine regard for the situation, but it becomes hard to deal with crisis on a regular ongoing basis. People will step back or limit involvement, checking in during long intervals or politely inquiring about the current status. Worse, people can ignore a survivor's actual need, because it is now routine. For some people, there are only so many times they can help before it becomes too much to handle.
If the trauma is something which manifests itself physically, the reactions can be even more profound. People will look away, avoid eye contact, or actively make an effort to prevent personal contact. Worse, they can act like you are not even there.
It can be incredibly painful for a survivor still fighting to survive to find themselves suddenly so isolated. Often a survivor can feel almost invisible. Their struggles unrecognized and their calls for help unanswered. It's very scary and lonely to suffer unnoticed, to cry unheeded and truly hard to survive without assistance.
If we walk away or turn our backs on people in need, we miss the opportunity to provide genuine support for another and lose the chance to share with them the breathtaking moments of our humanity which so often occur in the darkest times of our lives. These moments are often the most profoundly powerful we can experience as human beings.
If we actively make the choice to avoid the storms devastating another person's life, we will forever miss sharing the beauty of rainbows which explode with grace down through breaking storm clouds.
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