Where The Wind Comes Sweepin’ Down the Plain

I love Oklahoma.

Yesterday’s historic disaster recalled for me why I fell in love with Oklahoma.

I love Oklahoma because of the people who are fortunate enough to call it home.

I came to know them through my very dear friend, Steve Raupe, and his amazing sister, Karen Hanstein, and our service together on the Board of Directors of the International Bottled Water Association.

**Steve and his family are fine!

Steve’s business, like ours, is a family business built like ours – with hard work and long hours. Because our businesses are alike – although Steve’s is much larger – we both have four kids about the same age and have been able to share a deep, intimate friendship over the past fifteen years or so.

We talk virtually every day and are keenly aware of each other. Good times, bad times, trials, tribulations…you name it. If I have to rant – I pick up the phone and rant and Steve does likewise. We know we just need to vent sometimes and we’re there for each other.

Thankfully, I have visited Steve and his family and their business a couple of dozen times over the years and I usually stay longer than I should – but I just love Oklahoma and its people so much that I really don’t want to leave.

I hope to explain just why Oklahomans are so special and truly unique – because they are worth getting to know. And this disaster will give you a long look into a great people.

On my first trips out to Oklahoma City an odd question was asked of me by just about everyone I was introduced to by Steve and his family. To a person they would ask “What do people think of Oklahoma?”

After several awkward “I don’t knows”, I was able to reflect and honestly answer, “We don’t.”

To a person they would all react the same way – they would seem taken aback at the candor and then they would always laugh as if to say “Yeah, why would you?”

Oklahoma is a dry, hot, and windy land full of oil and natural gas wedged in between Texas and one of those rectangular states whose state capitals are a pain to memorize in fourth grade geography. Since we don’t quite understand panhandles, we just keep scanning the map and Oh Look! The Rockies!

And they play college football. Holy cannoli do they play college football.

Having come to know so many Oklahomans, I have come to believe and espouse that you should think very highly of these people. Very, very highly. And here’s why I think Oklahomans are so awesome.

Imagine growing up in a land that is part South, part West, and part Mid West – but the best of each.

Now, throw in a rich cultural heritage of Native Americans, Free Blacks, and Land Rush settlers.

Just those ingredients alone make Oklahomans fun, gregarious, opportunistic, and family oriented.

Religious? Check. Conservative? Check. Stuck in the mud? Nope. They can’t be. One does not sit still in Oklahoma. It’s vibrant. Active. Energy is its economy and its culture.

With me so far?

OK! (pun intended. They get it, you don’t have to)

For the longest time, there was something gnawing at me that made Oklahomans so incredible (defined as not believable) and then it hit me on a drive into OKC with my friend Steve on the way back from Shreveport, LA last April.

Tornados.

We were driving back rather quickly – OK! Well above the posted suggestions by the State of Oklahoma.

Steve said that he needed to get back ahead of the storms.

East Coast Visitor, moi, was thinking – because?

Steve answered, “Because we don’t play around with these things.” And he gave me a pretty thorough history of Tornado Alley and growing up in it.

As friends are want to do, I tried to share some of our East Coast storms in an attempt to relate to my friend.

And then it dawned on me, “My God, these people go to work in the Spring Storm season and have every reason to expect that everything they own and love could be gone by the time they come home.”

We think a couple of inches of snow is a problem. Half a dozen a big inconvenience and anything near a foot is a Zombie Apocalypse. Like Olive Garden running out of free bread and salad!

In April and May, Oklahomans contend with the real possibility of massive destruction like we are witnessing yesterday and today. Every April and May. It’s just a part of life there.

So imagine actually living there.

That reality brings about a unity among Oklahomans, a connection of humanity, and a joy for living that makes these people truly amazing to be around. They seem to be woven together because in just a few minutes a monster twister could take it all away.

They might not agree on everything but they are there for each other. Really there. In the moment. Alive. They all know what to do and instinctively that the person next to them does as well.

Many people are posting and tweeting – with good reason – notes like “hug your kids today” “makes you appreciate what you have” etc…and they are right.

Now, imagine living that everyday! Imagine growing up that way!

That’s Oklahoma. They live for and IN today.

When the storms hit yesterday, Oklahomans sprung into action. They knew what to do. They live this every day, every year.

This tornado was more destructive than any other previous one and we are drawn into their lives.

Oklahomans will rebound, rebuild, and prepare again.

They will clean up, buck up, and lift up each other as they have done for decades.

For now, pray for the victims and their families. They need it.

Donate to credible relief efforts like the Red Cross.

But if you can – watch and learn just how truly inspiring, loving, patriotic, and good these people are.

BOOMER! SOONER!

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Chris Saxman

About Chris Saxman

Father of four, small business leader, retired politician, and Executive Committee member and former Chairman of an international trade association, Chris Saxman delivers strategy and insight as a political coach and keynote speaker. Contact Chris.

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