Perspective: Earthquakes and Coronavirus

It’s easy to take earthquakes for granted when you live in California.

If I’m sitting quietly in my home office, I’ll feel a little jolt once or twice a week. It catches my attention, but I go right back to what I was doing.  Sometimes it’s big enough to rattle the windows, and I’m more engaged.  But when a big one hits, it changes everything.

Most people were asleep at 4:31 AM on January 17, 1994. That’s when the “big one” hit in Northridge, California.  It lasted 20 seconds, and nobody slept through it.  Freeways collapsed. Buildings crumbled. Almost 60 people died.  Hundreds were injured. Adrenaline flowed like a river.

And then the lights went out. Massive power outages took place throughout Los Angeles. In the predawn hours, major sections of the city were powerless. People scrambled in the confusion and rubble, trying to find flashlights and candles. Outside, there were no streetlights, no signals, no neon signs.  

It was just . . . dark.

Later that day when the sun rose and the power gradually returned, the Griffith Park Observatory began receiving dozens of calls from people who had seen a huge, silver cloud floating over the city. Some feared it was related to aliens, while most simply wondered if the earthquake had somehow impacted the atmosphere.  As the sun rose, the cloud dissipated.

After hearing similar descriptions from callers, the observatory staff finally realized what the cloud was – what the people had actually seen.

It was the Milky Way.

People who had lived in the distraction of city lights for decades saw stars and constellations they had never seen before. Those stars had always been there, but the lights overpowered their view of the galaxies. 

The stars are always there. But when the lights are bright, we can live under them for years and never notice them.  It takes our world being shaken and the lights going out for us to really see.

During the Coronavirus journey, the lights have dimmed.  Everyone’s first response is the same: “I can’t see!” Everything is different, and it’s not clear what direction we should take.  We’re all groping in the darkness, and the normal landmarks are unseen. We’re just trying to survive.

But gradually, we start bumping into the familiar and the important.  We triage our values. We instinctively reach out for the things that matter most.  We’re not concerned that the newspaper was late, or that our car needs washing or worried about what others will think if we wear a mask to the grocery store.

We reach out for relationships.  We text old friends to see how they’re doing. We have virtual meals with our kids and grandkids and parents, just to stay connected. 

We start noticing things we took for granted when the lights were on.

When it’s sunny, we look up and see . . . well, the sky.

When it’s dark, we look up and see a whole new universe we can’t see without that darkness.

It’s a reminder that we’re surrounded by wonder. But our lives are so filled with trivia and schedules and shiny objects that we forget that it exists.

Nobody likes dark times in life. But while you’re in one, look up.

Some things can only be seen in the darkest of nights.

That’s where we see the wonder.

Take a break.

Take a breath.

Get perspective. Listen to someone deeply.  Remember the things that matter most.  Tell someone you care.

The sunrise is coming.  But in the meantime… look for the silver cloud.

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213 Ambassador

Mike Bechtle

Mike Bechtle

Dr. Mike Bechtle is the best-selling author of five books including “People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them the Keys.” Mike has sold 300,000+ copies of his books, has been a Franklin Covey consultant for 30+ years (teaching 3,000+ seminars), and is a regular contributor to Focus on the Family. Learn more about Mike here.

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