by Patricia Carey
Whenever there is a tornado outbreak in our state, many of our friends and relatives from around the country begin asking me on Facebook and on the phone, “How can you live there?” “Don’t you think you need to move back here?” and to that I must say…
There are natural disasters almost everywhere you might live. California has earthquakes, Arizona and many states around it have wildfires, the East Coast and Gulf Coast have hurricanes, there are blizzards in the north and floods in the Midwest.
Being in the path of storms is the price we pay for living in the friendliest, most generous, kindest place in the world. Yes, we have disasters, but within minutes there are neighbors, and friends, and strangers who become friends lining up to help. They give money, the clothes off their backs, and their labor. They open up their homes. They pass out food. They travel across the state to go to the aid of hurting people.
We don’t have to have a tornado or a building blown up by terrorists to bring out the love in our state. When you stand in line at the market, people chat. When you stop to admire someone’s garden, she is likely to invite you to the back yard to see more, and you leave with some cuttings to plant in your own garden. The people on your street have a block party, and everyone brings food and sits around talking and laughing. If you are out to dinner and there are storm warnings, you can call a neighbor who will brave the weather to go check on your dog.
There are churches practically on every corner here, and the people who attend them live their faith. More than one church in our community offers free breakfast and lunch to kids all summer long because they know that when school is out many will be hungry without the free lunch program at their schools. Many churches partner with a school and weed their lawns, paint the playground equipment, monitor tests, donate school supplies, send encouraging notes and little treats to the teachers, and help out any way they can.
Oklahoma probably doesn’t need me, but I need it. I need to feel that wind “come rushing down the plain” and mess my hair. I need to get my fingers in the red dirt that is impossible to wash out of a kid’s clothes. I need to wake up the morning after a storm and see the sky—that unique Oklahoma blue, with white, big-bellied clouds that look like you could bounce on them.
I need to see the different cultures living together yet maintaining their own heritage. I need to hear the town names, like Gotebo and Bug Tussle and Hooker, and know that when I drive there, it could be that a dog will be taking its nap out on the highway because it sleeps there every day and I can darn well drive around it! I need to know that when the school has a pet show in the parking lot someone is likely to trailer in a horse for her entry.
I need to know when the State Fair is in town and to hear the stories of friends from our church who go there to minister to the carnies, taking them blankets and bottles of shampoo. I need to hear the drawl of someone who asks me if I want to take the “buggy” he is finished with at the grocery store and tell me they are “fixin'” to move a “humongous” load of hay.
I have lived here forty years and raised my sons here. They don’t remember anyplace else, although they were born in California. We left here once, but Oklahoma red dirt is in our blood now, I guess, and we couldn’t stand it. When we crossed the state line as we were moving back, I let out the breath I must have been holding all along and knew I was home.
I wasn’t born in Oklahoma, but I hope to stay here till God takes me to His heavenly home. Psalms 139:16 says “All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be,” so no matter if there are tornadoes or illness or however God chooses to take me, I know I don’t need to worry or be afraid. It is in His hands and His timing. I just want the trip to be from Oklahoma. It’s pretty close to Heaven already.