15 days of Loss, Materialism, and Growth

Fort Vermilion Flood, 2020.

It has been 15 days since the flood began. I have been kept busy with helping others and situating my own life back into a groove. I have spent a good chunk of the last two days processing what I’ve seen and what I’ve been doing. The last major project was helping my good friends’ with their home.

It is surreal to take apart someone’s livelihood. It is even more so when your own memories lay between their walls. It is two weeks shy of a year ago that we all piled into this house during a sudden bout of rain as my friend and I celebrated our 30th birthday. Now, just shy of our 31st birthday, I was tearing those same walls down. It may be too early to say, but I am not sure if you get use to the feeling of placing someone’s livelihoods, up to the present day at least, into a garbage–the fridge and all. When I first began helping them with their demolition, the sign used a few weeks back announcing their second child to friends and family was strewn across the floor by the door; it was an explicit juxtaposition and confrontation between life then and life now. 

Sifting through the belongings of others oddly led me to understand myself a little better. I’ve quickly come to understand my own materialism, which I have always wrongfully denied. The panic and dread I felt when my own possessions, everything I have worked for while living away from home, seemed in danger taught me that I am indeed in part a materialist; the objects I have come to own mean more to me than I care to admit. Yet, I also saw how fickle and meaningless they are. As much as the things we collect and choose to surround ourselves with reflect our identity, they do not define us; objects are not our beginning nor our end. I have watched as my friends lost everything, but they are still the same kind and caring people that they were before. I believe that this resiliency is something for us all to admire and to strive for.

I think I have grown from this horrible event. I have learnt about my own attachments and materialism. I have also learnt that it is not objects that define us, but it is us who define our surroundings. We choose who we are by way of action, and the environment we create within our small place on earth stems from these actions, not the other way around. 

Addendum:
Below you will find photos of my friends’ home. You can see the damage from the flood and its transformation as we stripped it out. Someone has started a Go Fund Me on their behalf; please share it. If you can, think about donating. I cannot imagine how hard of a time this is right now for them. So much loss, and their second child is on the way.

Go Fund Me: The White Family

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