I didn’t hear it happen.
I saw the work out front where the city was modulating the water pressure for the neighborhood, re-chlorinating the system. Water gushed from the pipe into the cul-de-sac and, despite that volcanic water spout, it all seemed copacetic.
Until there was a frantic knock on the door. And my phone rang in the distant room. I’d been trying to live with my phone in the other room for the week, especially when I’m at work and have other screens to dull my brain wrinkles.
It’s interesting: when the phone is in the other room, I don’t feel compelled to answer it. I’m not sure if it’s just the inconvenience of getting up to get it (I haven’t felt that need since childhood and the phone anchored in the den!), or perhaps it’s because lately so many people have been concerned about my car warranty (“God bless their hearts,” as we say in the South).
But, for whatever reason, I didn’t get the phone. Or the door (it’s a work day).
Until the knocking continued, frantic.
I come downstairs to find my neighbor and her dog at my door. She’d been out walking him and noticed that our front yard had become Lake Gaston. Finn’s basketball floated in the center of it, mocking my inattention to the second largest body of water in North Carolina forming amidst our naked rose bushes.
“What happened?!” she asked.
“I’m not sure,” I said, dumbfounded at the water gushing up from the ground like “a’bubblin’ crude” just under our Japanese Maple.
And then I remembered the city doing the water work today and, through some pretty simple logic, figured the pressure modulations had burst our pipes.
I reached for my phone…but it was upstairs.
I thanked my neighbor, ran upstairs and called the city water department.
“We’ll have someone out to you soon,” she said. “Stay by your phone.”
In a week where I was practicing not staying by my phone, I was now being told to stay by my phone. And, sure, it was an emergency, but the dilemma felt real in the moment.
I took it as an opportunity to make some other calls: to my spouse and my parents. And then to Google repair cost averages. And then to Google how much selling a kidney would bring in to pay for said repairs.
I had a hunch the city would not be footing this bill (spoiler alert: they won’t because it’s on our property between the meter and our house).
I put the situation on social media in a humorous way, asking for shipments of “beer and fruit snacks.”
And then the texts started to come. I was “staying by my phone” as the city instructed, and texts of love and support and, yes, offers for beer (from our great neighbor) came in. Offers to house our children overnight if needed. Offers to get us dinner.
The offers haven’t stopped, continuing to this morning.
In the end we’re getting the water taken care of on Monday. And, though it’s an expensive repair, we’ll be alright. It did, however, bring me a renewed empathy and passion for electing officials who understand how tightly families live, and the reality that most of us are a major emergency away from having our savings wiped out.
But, more than anything, it was a moment of true grace for me. I was kicking myself for having to be by my phone in order to get this done. But in the midst of my irritation, I was getting offer after offer of grace far and wide, and I wouldn’t know that grace had I not had that blasted device in the moment.
Being addicted to the phone is bad. But, when in right relationship with it, it can be a medium of grace.
I’ll tell you, honestly, that when I left parish ministry I was concerned we were severing ties with our “village.” I really don’t know how to cultivate community except through a congregation, and we have not landed in a new one as of yet (pandemic, ya know?).
But after this I am not worried we don’t have a village. It was there all along. And in this moment of pinch, the iPhone became a wePhone, and that made a lot of difference.