My dentist happens to be in Washington, IL. I was out of town on business when this occurred and just got back on Friday night with NO clue how truly catastrophic the damage to that community was from the twister. Pictures and news stories don’t do it justice. But now I understand why I was receiving e-mails and phone calls advising all patients that the office was closed last week. And why we were asked to please call and advise if we would not be able to keep our appointment. And why my phone was blowing up with texts, pictures, calls as I drove through Indiana and Kentucky on Sunday. Thanks, everyone, for checking on me!
As I drove down the road to their offices, other than lots of traffic at Menard’s and plenty of police cars around, all seemed somewhat “ok”. And then….the world changed in front of my eyes. To the right side of the street the destroyed Georgetown Apartments complex. No access allowed to any residents at this point. It’s just too unstable. Any belongings inside are lost for good and not retrievable. Next to that, a golf course with a clubhouse/shop and trees missing. Gone. And beyond that, there was a long stretch of nothing but rubble. As I turned into the entry way on the left side of the street, shared with the Tractor Supply store, there sat a white SUV sitting on top of a mountain of twisted metal, where nothing existed before the storm. And in the parking lot behind the dentist’s office that sits up on the street……what was left of a motor home that clearly had literally flown over the roof of the building and ended up there. Boarded windows. A tarp over the roof. Metal signs gone. Trees sawed off at the base. Beyond the parking lot and skirting the edge of downtown Washington a diagonal line of nothing but piles of debris stretching to the far side of town, approximately 1/8th of a mile wide according to all the news and photos. WOW!
As I sat in the lobby waiting for my appointment a young lady on crutches caught my eye as she struggled just to get to the door. Without really thinking about it, I jumped up before she got to the two sets of doors into the place and held them for her. Thank you, thank you…like clockwork, came out of her mouth. When she checked in rather than sit, she stood. Obviously a regular, the office manager at the front desk asked her if she would like to sit. “No thank you. But thanks for asking.” As she talked to me, she shared she had been buried in rubble and had a compound fracture of her leg. It was easier to stand than to sit right now, clearly in extreme pain and trying not to moan but a whimper was unmistakable and understandable. But rather than talk about her experience, she asked “Are you okay? Do you live here? Is everyone in your family allright?”. Unbelievable. Clearly not thinking about the extreme challenges she had ahead of her.
And then the office staff. My dental hygienist and the dentist, were the ONLY people in the office who did not live in Washington. And they were the only ones whose homes were not impacted severely by the storm. Not a hint. Everyone was into the business at hand. And asking others how they were doing and if everyone was okay. Not ONE single mention of their plights. Only a consistent and regular outpouring of courtesy, care, recognition of others first.
And my last stop, the bank back in Peoria. A planned lunch with a friend and client, Jeff, was another reminder. The person in charge of the office and tellers, Carrie, was missing. You know when Carrie is in the building! She was out for an undetermined amount of time. Yep, Carrie had “lost everything” in the tornado.
Okay, so in what seems to be the most tragic and close to home event in my lifetime, there was a pattern here. Maybe one we ALL could learn from in normal times. Not just in the midst of a tragedy, at the beginning of our major holiday time of year. Reminders we could apply to work and our personal lives outside of work.
- You are not in this alone.
- Someone might have it worse than you, no matter how bad things seem right now.
- Sincere “thank you’s” for specific actions go a LONG way and carry more weight. And they breed an environment that is contagious and welcome anytime.
- It’s okay once and awhile to let people know you care.
- It’s not always “unacceptable” to share how you’re REALLY doing, otherwise how would people really know! Maybe we can help.
- If people can be so outwardly focused and thinking of others first in the midst of tragedy…..that is leadership and behavior we can use more of in “normal” times.
- And the most powerful message of all, we will survive and recover from this.
Now tell me, wouldn’t it be great to see this happening more every day? Under the best of times? In business and in our everyday lives? It couldn’t hurt. And many of you have been through disasters and extreme challenges of your own. But the lessons reinforced by this one for me rings true for all of us. You CAN do it. You can make it through. And you don’t have to go it alone even when it feels like you are doing so. Don’t give up! The people of Washington, IL and the surrounding area didn’t. And today Washington is mostly recovered, but they will never forget what happened. And the folks I know that live there and went through this experience will truly be giving thanks for the blessings they do have this Thanksgiving. I hope you are able to do so as well.