One of the drawbacks of being a writer and a theologian is that when you move, you have to drag at least 100 pounds of books and journals with you.
If someone asks me, “Why can’t you get rid of your books?” or “What about ebooks?” I will stare at the person like they asked me to amputate one of my limbs. My library is an extension of myself.
Obviously I couldn’t buy a plane ticket to California for my books though, so I decided I would ship them via Media Mail. I packed all 120 pounds of my books up in hot pink Imperfect Foods boxes that congratulated me on reducing food waste and demanded I recycle the boxes. Sure, I thought to myself. Since you asked so nicely.
Next, I had to figure out how to get my books and I to the Post Office as I do not have a car. I asked my housemate if she would be willing to escort my books and I there in her minivan, and she graciously said she would be able to help me out.
The real challenge would be getting the three heavy boxes of books into the Post Office at one time. I rifled around in the basement for a solution because, like God, basements provide. Sure enough, I found a rusty cart that might hold up long enough for me to get the boxes to the counter.
The morning before going to the Post Office, I prepared for the trip, imagining the things that could happen: boxes coming undone, the clerk not understanding my Deaf accent, and an invasion of alien llamas (you never know). I packed a pen and paper, shipping tape, and my trusty leatherman pocket tool in my purse.
At noon, my housemate and I carried the boxes down the stairs and out to the minivan.
“Wow, you’re strong,” my housemate remarked with wide eyes as I set down 60 pounds of books down in the trunk. I get this comment often and am never sure how to respond. The words seem iceberg-like somehow. That day, I just smiled and got into the car.
My finger throbbed and I realized I somehow cut myself while carrying the boxes down. Blood dripped on my jeans on the way to the Post Office.
Upon arrival, we loaded the boxes onto the rusty cart and it thankfully held together long enough to get through the door and to the counter. I wrote out my address labels and instructions for the clerk with ease. Everything seemed to be going smoothly.
“Use the flat rate box for this small box,” the clerk said. “Otherwise the package will be very expensive to mail.”
Almost. I sighed internally, but appreciated the clerk telling me about this. I brought my box and the flat rate materials to the back counter. Pulling out the tape from my purse, I assembled the flat rate box and gutted my own box with my leatherman to transfer its contents to their new home. Done.
“Well, that was an adventure!” I said to my housemate when we were back in the minivan. She laughed and agreed.
And it was an adventure we were prepared for. The process of natural disaster preparedness is as follows: mitigation, response, recovery, mitigation. This reflection process is helpful for both natural disasters and situations we face in everyday life, such as going to the Post Office.
Mitigation is taking steps and planning ahead to reduce the impact of disaster, such as injuries, death, and property damage. This is what I did to prepare–asking for help, finding the cart, and bringing supplies.
Response addresses the immediate threats presented by the disaster when it strikes, such as search and rescue, distributing resources, and assessing damage. After preparing, I was able to respond to (or unable to respond to) various situations that came up during the trip.
Recovery is the process of restoration or healing a community undergoes after the disaster. Upon returning home, I cleaned the cut on my finger and returned the cart to the bowels of the basement.
Finally, we come back to mitigation when we reflect on the natural disaster and ask what we could do differently or better next time. What I was unprepared for was responding to my housemate’s comment about my strength and the minor injury that ended up staining a perfectly good pair of jeans. I decided that the next time someone comments on my strength, I’ll ask a question of curiosity about it, such as, “are you surprised?” to see what it reveals. The next day, I bought myself a travel first aid kit to stick into my purse for future adventures.
I flew home and my books started arriving a few days after me. As each box arrived, I felt a little more whole.
The last box to arrive contained my Bibles. I opened one up to the following verses: “For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another,” (Romans 12:4-5).
And so it is with books and Christian community. Writers need their books and people need each other, especially during natural disasters. Amen.