• Mark Palmer

Weathering Storms Together

As I write this, the UK is enduring the worst weekend of storms for many years. Depending on where you live in the world, what we view as a major storm may appear quite tame, but for us, the sight of people being blown off their feet by the wind is highly unusual!

As is normally the case in this age of technology, the incoming storms were well forecast, and warnings were issued. People were advised to stay at home unless it was essential to go out (a now-familiar instruction but this time for a different reason), and many of us tried to make sure that anything that might be blown away from our gardens was secured.

But of course, there is only so much that you can do to prepare even when you know a storm is coming. It is too late to fit an entirely new roof, and how would you know whether yours is the building at risk? We have all seen the videos of one roof lifting off in a high wind while a neighbouring one that appears identical remains untouched. In the same way, two trees may look similar, but while one stands strong, another is uprooted.

However wealthy or pampered we are, storms come to all of our lives, and the same storm can affect different people in profoundly different ways. There is always more going on in the life and mind of others than we will ever know or understand, even for those close to us. We are all different, so why would we expect it to be any other way? When faced with a major problem, some of us may deny it exists at all at first, others may try to tackle it head-on at 100 miles an hour without even gathering all the facts first (guilty as charged), and a further group may show no emotion at all, and simply do nothing visible, processing the event in their own way.

The thing is, none of these reactions, or the myriad of others that occur, are right or wrong. Yes, some may lead to a solution to a particular problem more effectively than others, but life is not just about solving problems with robotic efficiency. We also respond to events emotionally and psychologically. Our unique brains and range of experiences colour our reactions to an event.

The only right answer is to be ourselves. Pretending to have a particular response because others are behaving in a certain way, or we feel pressured to respond in some manner or other, helps nobody. In fact, pretending to be affected in a manner that others expect can easily get in the way of us processing the issue for ourselves, which is always important. If something really upsets you, it does not mean that there is something wrong with you because others are not upset by it. Equally, seeing the positives in a difficult situation while others, for the moment at least, are struggling to see past the immediate setback, is not a bad thing to do.

When the storms come, the same gust of wind hits each of us differently and affects us all in different ways. Valuing diversity means accepting that others may be upset by something that seems minor to us and supporting them however we can. You do not have to understand someone’s anguish to stand with them, or to bandage their wounds.

The extreme weather will doubtless lead to wonderful stories of heroism and neighbours looking out for each other. It is a model that can be followed for all the storms that we endure, be they those that come with thunder and lightning, or the emotional and mental storms that strike us all from time to time. If you are lucky enough to be standing strong while others sway in the wind, be the tree that helps others around it to resist the wind by the intertwining of their roots. We may deal with things differently from one another, but that is a strength, not a weakness.