When I was a little girl, I was terribly afraid of the thunder and lightning. One thundery night I woke up, shaking and crying. I went downstairs and my parents were just getting ready to go to bed. My father scooped me up and stood, holding me, in front of the big picture window in our living room. The sky was pitch black. I could hear the wind whipping branches and leaves around. Every few minutes, lightning would light up the sky and then there would be a resounding crack of thunder.
I was so afraid of the thunder. My Dad taught me the shorthand trick of counting the seconds between the lightning and the thunder to tell how far away the lightning had hit. After each flash of lightning, we would slowly count together. He pointed out when the seconds were growing longer and told me that meant that the storm was moving away. He took a long time to explain to me the whole process of how lightning and thunder come about, and that the thunder is nothing to be afraid of. Most of the explanation was over my head, but I remember feeling reassured by it. I guess I thought that if he understood how it worked, then it was not so scary.
After the storm ended, my Dad tucked me back into bed. The funniest thing is that I have never been afraid of thunder and lightning since that night. In fact, there are few things in the world that I love more than a good rollicking thunderstorm. Especially at night, when I am lying in bed and can see the flash of lightning and hear the thunder crashing.
My children have never been afraid of thunderstorms. They have caught my love of them. When they were little, the first sounds of thunder would find us standing on our porch, watching the storm. I would enthusiastically share with them how much I love thunder and lightning and we would count together the seconds between lightning flash and thunder crash. A close strike, with a loud boom of thunder would be followed by one of us yelling “Ooh, that was a GOOD one!” We would spend as much time with the storm as we could, returning to the inside only after being satisfied that it was over.
I realized at some point the wonderful gift that my father had given me. It’s much greater than the gift of overcoming fear of thunderstorms. It’s the gift of understanding the power of knowledge – because knowing a little bit about something can take away the fear. It’s the gift of love – because love drives away fear. And replaces it with love.