Finding joy in a flooded basement

blogDSCN8624Things could be worse.

Here at Mama’s Empty Nest we experienced a rude awakening this morning.  Hubby gently roused me and asked if I had to work today.  Bewildered and groggy, I replied, “No, why?”

“Good thing,” he answered.  “We have no hot water.”  As he shivered from a cold shower and quickly dressed, I gathered my wits.

A trip to the basement revealed a flood surrounding the vicinity of the hot water tank.   Great.  Hubby hurriedly moved nearby items away from the source and started squeegee-ing water towards the basement floor drain.  Mindful of my bad back, I moved light boxes out of the way and tried to see how far the water had spread.

Our basement is full – and I do mean full – of all kinds of things in storage.  Our nest is a revolving door with our adult children coming and going and using it as a depository for all of the extra stuff they don’t need yet or want in their apartments.  So boxes, plastic tubs, furniture, small appliances, and all kinds of what-nots await in monstrous piles to be transported to their permanent homes when the kids marry and finally get settled.

I quickly surveyed oldest daughter’s piano to make sure it was out of harm’s way and was relieved to see it was.  Drat, I thought.  We’ll have to move all this stuff around tonight when hubby gets home and haul out some wet carpeting to the garbage.  In addition, we’ll have to open up some boxes and make sure nothing was damaged.  Not what I had planned today, that’s for sure.  And darn it, my achy back and hip are bothering me again as well!  Plus there’s the expense of purchasing and installing a new hot water heater.  What a way to begin the day!

Back upstairs in the kitchen, hubby heated water in the teakettle so he could shave and leave for work while I perused the telephone book yellow pages in search of a repairman.   After a couple unsuccessful calls, I talked to a gentleman who lived near our home.  “I’ll be over in just a few minutes,” he promised.

True to his word, this repairman arrived not long after I jumped out of my jammies and into some clothes.  He assessed the situation quickly and said he’d be back in no time with a new water heater, but he would have to bring some help as he recently had emergency surgery and wasn’t able to lift heavy objects.

I offered how sorry I was for that, and he remarked with a laugh, “Oh, it could be worse!”  I couldn’t get over how chipper he was and how much of an optimist he appeared to be.   He was downright jovial, I thought, and laughed easily as we chatted.  Must be one of those early morning people, I decided.

He returned with two friends and a brand new water heater in tow.  While he worked, we discussed how things don’t last, how outrageously expensive items are, and how we get less for our money nowadays.   “Oh well,” he said, “it could be worse.”

He repeated that saying several times in the course of our conversation.  Finally, he revealed the reason for his opinion.  A few months ago, a man had been working on a gas line in a nearby town and the deep ditch he was in collapsed onto him.  He was encased in soil, unable to move for quite some time until rescue workers were able to free him.

That man was my water heater repairman today.   As he casually mentioned it, claustrophobic me was shocked.  I said, “Oh, bless your heart! How did you stand it? I would have died from fright!”

He said, “You know, I could have died, but I didn’t even have one broken bone from the weight of all that dirt on me.  I figure God wanted me to stay here for something.  It just wasn’t my time.”

And he laughed.   He.  Laughed.  This man had stared down death and instead of being paralyzed by the trauma of what had happened to him, he rejoiced in life.   His demeanor was full of joy.  Joy for life.  Joy for his work.  Joy for each day.

He continued by saying that he doesn’t get upset over things like he used to.  Those things are trivial and he said it again, “It could always be a lot worse.”

What a lesson I was given early this morning for this day in my book of Opportunity.   Waking up to no hot water and a flooded basement floor wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t the end of the world either.  I had water, I had a warm home, I had all the other necessities of life right at my fingertips.

And I had a prompt and able repairman who installed my new water heater and had it working by 10:15 this morning.  I appreciated his quick response and his ability to restore my hot water.

But you know what?  I appreciate the lesson he gave me about joy even more.  He reminded me that no matter what trouble comes your way, there’s joy to be found because “it could always be worse.”

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