Shaken

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Originally written in TACKED THOUGHTS for The Freeman
by Nancy Unchuan Toledo

Earthquakes, even the not-so-intense ones, are unforgettable experiences. (And the 2012 prophecies, no matter how unlikely, don’t help either.) There is something quite terrifying about being completely out of control. About being utterly helpless against something bigger than oneself. Suddenly, the “world” we built around ourselves becomes completely unpredictable. Routines go haywire and otherwise normal moments become riddled with panic. But perhaps, the most difficult thing about going through an emergency such as an earthquake is going through it knowing you are responsible for someone else. And not just some random mass of humanity but people you actually care about.

If I had been at home, I’m sure my biggest worry would have been making sure that all family members and household staff would have made it out alright. (That’s about 20 people). If I had been at a mall, I would have been my only worry. But I was at school. That’s three thousand people more or less. 300 or so were people I personally knew and had contact with, 42 of whom were under my personal care and 95% of the entire population were minors. (More or less… my Math isn’t very good!) Of course I knew that everyone’s life did not depend on me and that there were other adults around who had even greater responsibilities, but I worried. Because that’s what happens when you feel like you don’t have control over the situation and the situation affects people you care about. As one student, who had been given the job of helping in the evacuation, remarked: “It’s hard to be responsible for others.”

Yes, it is. Responsibility for another person is what makes a child become an adult. And the funny thing about responsibility is, the greater the love you have for another, the greater the responsibility you feel for his/her well-being. And the greater the love, the greater its capacity to leave you helpless, surprised, shaken… it’s a lot like being through an earthquake.

And I know the metaphor is rather cliché and maybe even a little too saccharine. But there it is, I put it out there and cynics are welcome to address the issue. But I cannot seem to help myself (because it’s almost Valentine’s day and because the news is still about earthquakes). Because I have seen parents worried to distraction about their child’s future, his health, his safety, his inability to cope. Because I have seen the immense sacrifice that wives are willing to undergo for their husband—leave their jobs or wait for months on end to get a glimpse of them. Because I have seen just exactly how far siblings can go to help each other. And because I have seen what damage betrayal can do to families.

Nothing makes a person more vulnerable to getting hurt than choosing to love someone and allowing him/her to be part of your life, than choosing to be responsible for another, than giving the other the freedom, to love them back or to reject them.

Yes, truly loving someone gives him the power to stir the very foundations of your being and make earthquakes seem like walks in the park. Scary things…love and earthquakes.

But on the upside, every now and then, they give people an opportunity to rise to the challenge and become heroes.

About Nancy Unchuan Toledo

When Nancy started teaching high school at age 21, she didn’t really think she’d make a career out of it. She was right. Ten years later and she realized teaching isn’t her career, it’s her passion. Writing is her passion, too, and she writes a bi-monthly column for the Freeman. Mostly she writes about her family, her friends, her students, her experiences in teaching, her love of books and her faith. Because those are the things that she cares about the most–although not necessarily in that order.

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