i never meant to fall in love with oklahoma.
i didn’t want to make new friends. and i didn’t want red dirt stained on my thrift-store cowboy boots. i didn’t want heat strokes from burning summers or getting lost in a stretched out, vast city. i didn’t want to like football or use the word ‘y’all.’ and i didn’t want to stay.
but maybe you know what it’s like for everything to change. loving oklahoma was undeniable in the same way it’s often impossible to catch yourself in the midst of a free-fall. life’s like that, you know. what seems like a temporary landing turns into a permanent longing.
maybe not everyone falls in love with places, but i do.
in the friendly waves from strangers on my way to work and the door held open while i was walking too slow. in the new friends made while standing in line at the grocery store and the number of people that pull over when you are stranded on the side of the road. in the loneliness you never feel. the country roads and busy highways. those water-colored painted sunset skies. i’ll gladly keep the red-dirt stained on my boots from nights of line-dancing, casey donahew, and cowboy hats. lake hefner at sunset. the constant airplanes flying by. and i’ll take that summer heat for days full of laughter with some of the best people i’ve ever met. taco nights at iguana grill, date nights in bricktown, and brunch at cafe 501. oklahoma had taken my heart before i ever realized i’d given it away.
i’m not from here in the way that you are. i didn’t learn at any of the elementary schools the tornado hit, and i never rode my bike or skinned my knees in the neighborhoods that no longer exist. i didn’t cheer in the high-school gyms that were damaged and i didn’t run through the grass at veteran’s memorial park or slide down that yellow slide. i’ve never gotten a speeding ticket on 4th street or had my birthday party at the bowling alley near the warren. i didn’t grow up knowing what a tornado shelter was and i haven’t had to previously rebuild. i didn’t drive down the roads in the aftermath of the tornado, devastated by the flooding of childhood memories while looking at what used to be. but my heart hurts all the same.
when things break, all i know is that you try to pick up the pieces and put it back together. that it takes time and tears. anger and grief. sorrow and hope. but what oklahoma has shown me is that you don’t have to do it alone.
and in the same heart that was breaking while trying to understand the impact of the devastation, it was being put back together by the overwhelming compassion and love of the oklahoman people. you see, community is when your soul aches for someone you don’t know but whose pain you want to take away. a community is what stands up when your house no longer does. it starts to put everything back together when your world is falling apart. community means love seeping in through every corner. community means no more bottled waters available at near-by grocery stores and wal-marts because they’ve already been purchased for donations. it means every single person doing what they can in whatever way that might be. it means parking your car and walking miles and miles to volunteer. it means offering up your talent for something greater than yourself. community is where you find your home, even when you’ve lost it.
i don’t know that i’ve ever seen anything as beautiful as watching people come together.
what i know is that i am glad to be here.
because oklahoma, you are beautiful.