Sunday Essay: Waiting for a storm to fall

·4 min read

WAITING for Auring, I see that this pandemic has tried to teach me an important life skill: how to wait with both gratitude and grace. I am only beginning to learn it.

The last time a power cut interrupted an evening at home, we realized too late that we had run out of candles. So, on Saturday morning, a day before the storm’s projected arrival, I decided to drive to the supermarket to get some candles, matches, batteries and a few essential household supplies.

Halfway there, however, the car quietly but decisively stopped.

Several attempts at a rolling start proved futile. Each time, the engine sputtered to life but quit within a minute. A kind jeepney driver, having seen my predicament, blocked the lane and let me steer the car to the side of the road, where it stopped directly in front of an auto repair shop. Possibly a lucky coincidence, yes, but it’s better for my faith and mental health to see it as divine providence, so that is how I’ll think of it.

Here is where the reminder surfaced. Sometimes, no matter how much you want something to happen, the only thing you can do is wait. Or you can do something else that’s useful, if waiting tends to drive you batty. A scanner that the mechanic needed would be available in about an hour. Would I care to sit in the repair shop’s customer lounge and wait? Since the supermarket was less than a kilometer away, I decided to go and get the essentials I had ventured outside the house for. At least the wait would not be idle; the thing I had set out to do would be done.

It took less than a minute’s wait for a half-empty jeepney to stop at the curb and less than five minutes to get where I needed to be. Within an hour, I had run my errands and picked up a magazine to keep me occupied, or so I thought while waiting for the car to get fixed. The mechanic, however, called to say that that particular puzzle could not get sorted within the day. I would have to wait a bit more.

On the way home, the cab driver told me he, too, had been waiting. But his wait carried an emotional weight that was much heavier than the temporary sacrifice of being car-less for a few days. He had brought his children to Negros in early 2020 because his workdays kept him out late and he couldn’t leave them alone in the house. They have stayed with their grandparents since then. He has waited for nearly a year for a chance to be with them again.

Waiting for a storm to arrive, I am reminded of the previous storms my loved ones and I have survived. More than seven years ago, while Yolanda battered more than a million homes all over the Visayas, I waited in the newsroom for two things: first, the earliest safe opportunity to drive home, see how our home and family had fared; and second, for the stories of colleagues who had taken calculated risks, away from their own families, so a meaningful account of what had happened could be told.

This past year has been a different sort of storm, a test of endurance that, while nowhere near as difficult as what our heroic health care workers continue to bear, has proven draining at times. Waiting for a credible word of when the vaccine would be available here at home. Waiting for an end to this ordeal to come into view. Waiting for when it will be safe to let our guard down again.

The National Geographic issue I had picked up to keep me company at the repair shop contains a few comforting facts. All the outbreaks that have plagued humanity have gotten shorter in the last century; this one may yet teach us, finally, to heed calls for safe water supply, sanitation and access to medical care for more people. Waiting for this new storm to fall, I am reminded (if you’ll forgive the cliche) of how much my loved ones and I have to be grateful for and how much we can still contribute to making the lives of others better, now and in the years ahead.