This morning a story was told to me that rattled my spirit. It had a certain power I felt in my bones and gave me the confirmation I was seeking. I’m going to share it – and take some artistic liberties in naming the “character” as I was never given his name. For the sake of this story, we will call him Charles.
Charles was attending a revival in Dallas at a small church on the south side of town. The services were emotionally moving and the congregation was steeped in the the message. At one point the pastor became overwhelmed with joy and the music swelled and the people lifted their hands in praise. Charles, seated with his family, rose to his feet and began to let out a loud, booming scream. Although it was a bit shocking, the pastor and people continued to worship. Finally, pastor approached the screaming man and said, “I don’t want to get in your business, but I know something big has happened and I want to know your story.” Charles obliged and told him, “I have a reason to scream”.
In 2005 Charles and his family made their way to Dallas from New Orleans after a narrow escape from Hurricane Katrina. For reasons not stated, he and his family stayed in the city despite the warnings and mandatory evacuations. On the day the storm hit, the waters and winds roared through the Big Easy, ripping homes apart and forcing people outside. Charles took his wife, mother, and two young children to the second level of their home thinking this would be safer. It was then that they heard the levees break and water came rushing into the house. Rushing so fast that the first floor quickly filled and crawled upstairs. Charles moved his family to the attic, but only for a brief moment as the water caught up to them. They climbed through a window and made it on top of the roof. Charles looked out to his beautiful city and which now looked like the ocean; the water continued to rise. The family made their way to a tree and climbed as high as a possibly could. His mother was struggling to hang on and in one blink of an eye her hand let go of Charles’ and she was floating away. “Mamma!” he screamed. His wife, panicked and desperately trying to hold her children tight, was suddenly swept away into the carnage of this newly formed sea which once was a city. One by one, Charles’ family was take from the tree and floated away from him. Finally, he found himself floating in the water away from everyone, every thing. The waves crashed against the city and screams could be heard nearby. He couldn’t tell if they were from his family or other residents who found themselves in the same predicament. Eventually the storm calmed and it became quite again.
Charles managed to find a piece of driftwood. He held on tightly and listened for any sign from his mother, wife, and two children. As he was perched on his makeshift float, a branch fell from a nearby tree and struck his head, leaving a permanent scar. At this very moment Charles woke up. He realized he was, indeed still alive and he needed to find his family. He swam over to a pile of wood and picked up anything he could find to make noise. He began to bang things together and to scream at the top of his lungs. He screamed for his family. He screamed for other people. He screamed for help. He screamed for anything.
“I still had my eyes, my hands, my legs, my voice. And somewhere I knew I still had my family. I have a reason to scream”.
Hours passed as he continued to yell and make noise; hoping someone would hear him. Finally, a Coast Guard boat passed by and heard his call. The crew of the boat quickly helped Charles on board where he found his whole family in tact, uninjured, and all together. Charles began to scream in joy. ” I have a reason to scream”.
The pastor was moved as he listened to the story and began to understand what Charles meant. “When I think of that day and how scared I was and then when I decided to fight for my life and for the lives of my family, I still have a reason to scream. Because I live, have a reason to scream”.
This morning this story was told to me in 4th person. And I retell it in 5th person. But I feel like it is a story worth sharing because it resonated in me. Because we all have a storm to deal with in our lives. Because the levees will break. We will have to fight for our lives. We will have to rely on our spirit and determination. And we will have a reason to scream. And then, when we’re on the other side of the storm, our reason to scream will move from fear to joy. Because that is how we make it. That is how we live.
I have a reason to scream.