Watching the abundant rain one hot, sultry afternoon, I ran outdoors, stood still and let the water pour down on me. What joy! Dripping wet, I returned to the house where the air conditioning was on. I quickly toweled my hair and face, changed clothes and felt deliciously comfortable.
I remembered living in New York, getting caught in rain or snow and how wonderful it felt to come home, put on cozy clothes, have a cup of hot tea and enjoy the warmth.
Recently I watched a documentary on PBS about the dust storms of the 1930s. After the rain storm, I thought back to that program. Living in New York as a child I never heard of the dust storms until I read "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck. One of his quotes called to me: "How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children? You can't scare him - he has known a fear beyond every other."
Reading the book, it was difficult to grasp what actually happened. Could things have been that unbearable? I wondered if Steinbeck exaggerated the situation.
Watching the film clarified the hopelessness of those years. My heart ached for the farmers who lost crops, for the children who didn't have enough to eat, for the women who tried in vain to keep the sand out of their homes. The land was desolate. The cattle were starving; their bones clearly visible in the films. I started to cry.
Eventually the government gave food to these starving families. But for many the assistance came too late.
The worst thing for me was how trapped these people were. Although the land had turned to sand, it belonged to them and they didn't want to give it up. Some of the women ran away, abandoning their husbands and children.
Thinking about this made me grateful for my life. Although we were not rich, we were never hungry. My father was a sign painter who worked seven days a week. Somehow he managed to bring in enough money to pay the rent and feed the five of us. I do remember my mother telling me how poor she was during the Depression. Many times she went to bed hungry; as a result of not having had enough to eat, she had stomach trouble for the rest of her life.
Our society has come a long way since the 1930s. Because the problem was caused by overplowing, people learned how to plant their crops to prevent this from happening. Progress has been made in agriculture, medicine, transportation and many, many more areas.
Although it is sad to think of these situations, it benefits us to reflect on how much we have today. Walk into any kitchen and count the appliances. Food is so abundant that we think more about dieting than finding ways to provide nourishment.
Out of tragedy, we learn. My life experiences have led me to know what makes me feel secure and happy.
So the next time we have a good steady rain, go outside, let the rain envelop you and be grateful for all you have.
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