Late-afternoon thunderstorms in the summer remind me of happy times. It brings me back to a time when I was younger. And, perhaps, it started way back when my family lived in the trailer park.
I remember being shorter than the counter tops that divided the kitchen from the living room, or as we would call it, the “front room.” I don’t know who started it, but whenever there was a thunderstorm and you’d hear it shaking things up, my brothers, sisters and I would go around asking each other for forgiveness for all the wrong things we had done.
It would go something like this: “Sorry for everything wrong I did to you; would you forgive me?” And the person would quickly say, “Yes,” and return the question: “Sorry for everything wrong I did to you; would you forgive me?” And that person would say, “Yes.”
Sometimes, the storms would be so fierce that it would knock the power out. During those times, I remember finding a corner to settle down in, to pray and be still. I have heard different sayings regarding thunder: “When it thunders, God is moving furniture around in heaven;” or “The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silent.” That was a song my parents taught us. We had a reverential fear of God during thunderstorms.
When my family moved from the trailer park and to the house where my parents still reside, as a teenager, I remember enjoying the passing of late-afternoon thunderstorms with my brothers and sisters who are closely related to me in age. The atmosphere had a relaxing, enclosed feeling. The trees were dark green, heavy with rain, and the purplish clouds would make you forget that it was not yet night.
Then, as the sun was thinking of settling for the evening, the clouds parted a bit for you to see the sun and the blue sky. My siblings and I would then venture outside in the driveway. We’d just be standing around or propping ourselves up on the station-wagon “car,” musing over life.
Some of the favorite topics to talk about among my brothers and sisters were future plans, life goals and personality traits. Second to knowing someone’s name for us was to discover the person’s temperament or personality trait.
We used the four-temperament model: sanguine, choleric, melancholy and phlegmatic with an understanding that most people had a combination of at least two of these. Sometimes, these conversations were heated debates, as everyone does not have the same experience or perspective when observing others. Even within our own family, some would diagnose one individual with a different personality than the next person would diagnose the same individual.
There is something so lovely about understanding how a person thinks or the reasoning behind their behavior. For me, trying to figure out someone’s personality helps me to tolerate people’s differences, such as a reaction that is inconsistent to how I would respond in a given situation.
To some, a misdiagnosis of someone’s personality could cause psychological harm. And I don’t disagree. We’ve had to defend ourselves against negative associations attributed to certain personalities. Due to this, I believe, to understand someone’s behavior by categorizing them into a personality type would be helpful as a guide, a clue-finder, rather than a means to make a judgement call on someone’s actions, especially not to predict someone’s actions because no two people are exactly alike.
My oldest brother in the group would have the most energetic ideas and future plans such as joining the army or traveling to Antarctica. My next brother in age would be the story-teller who would recall incidents from his day with such dramatic expertise.
My mom used to say that he was our television: we’d just watch and listen to him for hours. My oldest sister in the group was the practical and lively one; she’d give perspective to our plans. My next oldest sister and I would be listening, and I would chime in with a joke or two; she on the other hand, “came alive at night.”
Growing up around so many different shades of personalities in such a close-knit setting (17 brothers and sisters, being closely connected to around 13 of them 24/7 at one given time—as we were homeschooled), I have been blessed to discover how various personalities can live and work together despite their innate differences, just as the dark clouds, thunder and meditation can live in the same atmosphere of blue skies and memorable conversations. Everyone can contribute individually, and each contribution has its proper place and value.
Whatever setting we find ourselves in, may we cherish the moments we find ourselves humbled by the presence of our Creator and value the beauty as Habeeb Habeeb describes of “knowing the person sitting next to us.”
Precious Angel Kelly, a native of Rantoul, writes a Christian-based monthly column. She welcomes correspondence at firstname.lastname@example.org