Life Lessons I Learned From Living Through Hurricane Sandy. And You?
Life has been looking very different to me in the week after Sandy, and not just because of all the trees that fell in my neighborhood, some onto homes. When I walk down the block to my house and see it standing there, amidst all the detritus of dirt, branches and leaves Sandy threw its way, I’m grateful. When I open my fridge and grab a cold drink, I’m grateful. When I go to sleep at night and I hear the hiss of heat coming up through the vent, I’m grateful. When we go for a drive and I see our gas tank is three-quarters full, I’m grateful. When I get up at 4:45 a.m. to commute to work because there our train line is out and the busses are so crowded, um, I’m not so grateful. But it’s all relative, because I know that we’re one of the lucky ones. My family is safe. My home is OK.
For the first time in my life, the images on TV of places destroyed by a natural disaster are my neighborhoods, places I have known and loved. The people suffering are my neighbors. I’ve grieved for the victims of Katrina, Haiti, Japan—but when disaster hits home, it can really change your perspective on life. You realize that…
Nothing much matters in life except your family.
OK, this I knew, but it’s not something you sit around thinking about every day. Mostly, I’m just trying to manage my family, instead of being thankful for them. But then I kept reading about the mom in Staten Island whose two boys were torn from her arms by a rush of water, and found days later in the marshes. A woman in my neighborhood is friends with the mom of a young woman killed by a falling tree while walking her dog, along with her boyfriend (their dog survived). When they discovered the bodies the next day, my neighbor told me, that mom posted a Facebook message: “They found Jessie.” I have been haunted by those words every since. I have thought about all the sundry stuff I worry about in my life—the bedrooms that need painting, the yard that needs cleaning, the Internet connection that’s so slow and WHAT does it matter? It doesn’t. I spend far too much time trying to tackle every little thing and not enough time appreciating my two beautiful kids and husband. I have hugged and kissed and hugged and kissed them endlessly this past week.
We are way, way overprivileged.
Superstorm Sandy did serious damage to the train line I take, and I’ve been dealing with long bus lines and serious traffic jams. My one hour commute has stretched to three hours. I sat on the bus last night next to a really nice woman, also a train refugee, and we compared notes on when our power came back on (us: five days post-Sandy; her, seven). We joked a little about the bus situation. “Well, at least we have options,” she pointed out. And she was right: we had the option of taking a bus to work. My husband could pick me up if need be. If worst came to worse, my job would let me work at home. That is lucky, and I should count my blessings far more often than I do. Gratitude for all that you have in your life shouldn’t be something you only do at Thanksgiving.
We have too much stuff, too.
A church in our are has taking up a collection of goods for families affected by the hurricane. As I waded through my children’s toys and clothes and coats to gather donations, I was almost ashamed at the amount they owned. I thought of the children whose possessions were washed away by Sandy, and my hurt heart for them. If I cut back on the crap I buy the kids, I could give more money to charity throughout the year—and I’ll be keeping that in mind next time I’m standing in the store aisle.
I think we should have that third child.
It’s something my husband and I have been considering for years; a disaster like this forces you to realize that life truly is short. Alas, that third child is something my husband and I couldn’t get going on in the darkness Sandy bestowed, because the kids were so freaked out they slept in our bed for days afterward.
Our family needs more talk and less tech.
A couple of years ago, I read an article about a family who sat around, each one glued to their tech device—computer, iPad, iPhone. And now, at times we ARE that family, non-bonding as we all sit in the living room glued to our screens. When our neighborhood lost power for five days, we were sometimes left with nothing to do but actually hang out and talk, talk, and talk (OK, and eat, eat, eat, too). And it was awesome.
Helping many people is great; helping just one person, even more amazing
Like many people, I’ve donated money to non-profits. The Red Cross has received a record amount of donations, which is heartening to hear. But clicking to give money never feels satisfying to me, not now or anytime there’s been a disaster. Then I found out about a mom of a child with Down syndrome whose car was destroyed by Sandy; she used that car to get him to his therapies and medical appointments. I put up a fundraiser and have raised some $2200 so far (please chip in something if you can). And it feels really, really good to know that I’ve helped that one mom in need.
What’s been on your mind about life since Hurricane Sandy? Have you been able to help people?
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Tags: health, hurricane sandy, Hurricane Sandy lessons, life lessons | Categories: Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Children With Special Needs, Disability, Down Syndrome, Must Read, SPD, Special Needs, To The Max