I consider this my first “real” post when it comes to being thankful. But I am thankful to live in a world where people come together to help one another the way we do when disaster occurs. I think it’s a bit hard to explain what it’s like to have the infrastructure you’ve known all of your life disappear in a matter of hours when a storm surge rolls in, but it’s absolutely mind-boggling. I remember after Katrina, I was staying at school taking care of my nephews, because their apartment had been washed away. I brought them back down three or four weeks later, and that was the first time I saw the extent of the damage to the coastline I used to know.
Sometimes when I had gone back home from school to visit I would note how much things were changing as new stores and shopping centers were popping up, new condos along the beach, new restaurants. And even though it was strange, it was a good change. To return to your home to see absolutely nothing recognizable is an extremely hard thing to comprehend. It’s hard to verbalize. The memories we make when we are young are memories that stay strong. The places we used to go, the houses we used to hang out at, they are the way we remember our youth. And when I returned after Katrina, we had to count the streets trying to figure out where we were at because there were no longer any recognizable landmarks half a mile inland. (I live in a city that was not totally destroyed, and in fact sustained considerably less damage than the areas just two miles away from my home where the water literally covered almost the entire city and entire cities just 15 miles away.) Travel was limited, the bridges were washed out. There were barges sitting on top of the store my dad used to own. It’s still surreal to think about, and the recovery more than 7 years later is still ongoing, with much of the homes still not rebuilt and much of the infrastructure not fully restored.
One of the greatest things that we experienced after Katrina was the outpouring of support from people all across the country, and even internationally. People send supplies, came down to help gut the homes that had sustained too much water to be salvaged beyond the studs, helping set-up housing and rebuild homes, bringing food, bringing water, bringing ice and supplies. (In the weeks after the storm, as people see, it takes a long time to fully restore power, and when you have no power, no grocery stores because there’s no power and most of them were damaged down here, the national guard provides you with MRE’s to eat…I was lucky enough to bring food down from school with me, and only ate a few of those.) So all of those little things make a huge difference.
It truly amazes me when I think about how many people came down here, to a place most people didn’t know existed beforehand to give, to provide support and love. And this continued for years. People continued to come down, on spring break, on Christmas break, on summer break. We have an amazing resolve and an amazing willingness to serve those in need here, even though sometimes it doesn’t seem that way. So I am thankful that I live here. And I send thoughts and prayers every day to those affected by Sandy. For us Katrina hit in August. It was hot. It stayed hot. We didn’t have to deal with the cold. We didn’t have to worry about not having a heat source for the snow and freezing days and nights. I can’t imagine having to deal with that. I’m bringing Jack to donate some blankets tomorrow at one of the many donation areas we have set up down here. He said that was what he wanted to give to the little kids who might be cold. And I’m excited he has the chance to give and the heart to care for those who are in need. Recovery takes time, and we are recovering from a lot in this world. There was a powerful earthquake today in Guatemala. We had Sandy last week and a Nor’easter this week. We are still recovering in Japan, in Haiti (you can check out Justin’s work here, he’s about to go to Haiti to help in an orphanage there), in Mississippi and Louisiana, in Indonesia. There is so much happening in the world, and so much need just related to natural disasters where our basic needs hang in the balance. And I’m thankful that we live in a world where we can help and where we do help.
Just like the sailor respects the power of the sea, we have to remember each day to have that respect for ourselves and for life. Respect is something that we talk (or sing) about a lot. We all want to be respected. We want to have people believe in us. And we want them to care enough or at least acknowledge that we deserve to be treated in a respectful manner.
A lot of times we feel that people fail to respect us the way we want. We feel that no one respects how much we do at work. They don’t respect what we do at home. They don’t respect the time it takes us to figure things out. They don’t respect our place. They don’t seem to have much regard at all for the way we want things to go or the way we want our life to turn out. It can be frustrating. And though it would be nice if respect were really just always reciprocal, it doesn’t necessarily work like that.
We can spend all of our time being kind to others, working hard for our bosses, or whomever we have to please, only to have it returned without acknowledgement or even ridicule. The important thing to remember about respect is that respecting ourselves is one of the most beneficial things we can do. And these are the keys to doing it:
- Respect who you are. This means you have to respect that you are you. You are no one else. And you are worthy just as you are of all of the good things life has to offer simply by being you.
- Respect your power. The things you say and do have power. We can’t take back the things we say or do. They remain. We can apologize, and we can hope for the best, but the things we do cannot be undone. So we have to act with respect. Respect to ourselves and who we want to be. And respect to what we want to accomplish.
- Respect others. We spend a lot of time calling attention to the wrong things when it comes to others. We question what they’re wearing. We question their intelligence. We find ways to make comparisons that are completely unnecessary (and probably detrimental) to our well-being or to theirs. We have to change our focus, move away from those comparative habits and learn to look at ourselves and others without judging.
We have to be able to live our lives happy without ourselves. It’s rare that we are comparing ourselves to others because we are secure ourselves. It’s important that we take the time to respect ourselves enough to know that we should be secure in who we are. We worthy just as we are. We are capable of whatever we want to accomplish. And we don’t have to worry with anyone else. It is time not well spent that we don’t get back. I used to be terrible about talking about people’s outfits or hair or mostly the things that they said or did that I could find a way to make fun of. It wasn’t because I was a happy person. It was because I liked knowing that they weren’t perfect either. That they shouldn’t be considered great, because I wasn’t considered great. But in reality, all that I was doing was wasting time. And I wasn’t wasting anyone’s time but mine. I wasn’t wasting anyone’s mind but mine. Instead of focusing on me, and letting the other stuff go, I failed to respect anyone, including myself and it just left me unhappy and unfulfilled.
We all can do great things. We all deserve great things. Life is worth our respect. We have to respect our time. We have to respect ourselves. We have absolutely nothing to gain by failing to respect ourselves, our power, and others. The sailor respects the sea, because it has the capacity to overwhelm their boat with barely a moment’s notice. Storms pop up out of nowhere, and it’s the same in life. We have to respect our life. That’s how we gain the knowledge we need to weather the storms that are thrown our way. So the next time you sing the song, remember, it’s truth. We all deserve respect, so we need to take the time to truly respect ourselves.
“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.” – Louisa May Alcott
Today I am writing, and I’m writing rather quickly because there are a set of storms that will be coming through in about 30 minutes. The storms have already produced a small tornado. And I started to realize all of the things that I needed to do before the storms came in case the power goes out, I decided that what was I needed to write about as well. One of the things that you learn living through lots of storms, especially if you live on a coastline like I do where there are lots of hurricanes, is that there are things that you can do to prepare for the storms and things that you can do during the storm in order to survive. So today, since I’m preparing for the storms, I thought I would share my tips for surviving storms the storms of life. As it turns out those for surviving the weather, apply just as well to surviving the storms that mark our lives.
- Prepare. The reason this is the first step, is because no matter what is going on in our lives if we take the time to prepare ourselves, we are better able to face the storms. During hurricane season we have preparedness kits so that if things go wrong (like they did with Katrina) we can have the supplies we need to be able to survive both the storm and the aftermath. We need the essentials. Food, water, medical kits, money, routes to shelters. Things of that nature. And in life we have to do the same. We have to prepare ourselves for what we will face. Part of this comes from learning from the things that have happened in the past. If we reflect on the difficult times we’ve faced before we can take things away from those situations that will help us in the future. We can utilize the strength and the knowledge we have gained. These are some of our essentials. We can make it a point to put ourselves mentally in a place where we are growing and confident in ourselves and our abilities to weather these storms. We can build a shelter. We can supply it with the materials we need if we take the time to reflect on ourselves and our lives, and to use that information to make a path to where we need to be. We have to organize ourselves – make lists (that’s why I’m writing this in list form now), figure out what we plan to do, because if we have those plans and they are tangible, they are our routes to safety during the storms we weather.
- Focus. Once the storm hits we have to stay focused. We have to take the time to be still and listen, especially when the winds pick up. In elementary school during tornado warnings we used to have to move to the hallway and sit in silence listening for the wind to start to sound like a freight train, and if it did, we knew to cover ourselves. This is what we have to do during the storms in our lives as well. We have to stop and pay attention. We have to focus. We have to look to see if what we are doing is the right thing to do. We go back to our list that tells us where we are going. We see if our current situation is a part of it. If it is, then we look around and figure out the supplies we need to utilize while this storm passes. It can be that we just need patience and a look back at the list so we remember that the storm will always pass. Or we may need the confidence to remember that we are accomplishing what we have set out to, despite the storm – because there will always be difficulties on our journey. If our current situation isn’t part of our path, or we’ve come to a crossroads we have to decide if we are going to leave the path behind to stay where we are (if so, refer back to the previous statements) or if we are going to leave our situation behind so that we can continue on to where we planned to go. And leaving a situation, especially an emotion-filled situation can be hard. It can create a whole new storm. But as long as we are paying attention and focusing on where we need to go, and what is best for ourselves and those we care about, then we can know that we are going to weather this storm and turn out all right in the end.
- Find joy. This third step may seem a little bit strange, so let me explain. Whenever there were hurricane warnings and we had to stay home from school, I always got a little excited. I knew that I would get to see at home, maybe with just flashlights and candles. I knew we’d make a tent. I knew we’d play games. And those weren’t things that happened all the time. Even though I was scared. And sometimes we had to stop playing to hide in the hall, we always had fun distractions from the storm at hand. Sometimes when we get into the day to day of life, we forget to have fun. We forget to have those moments of escape from the storm. It’s important to remember that sometimes we need a distraction or two. We need an adventure, even if it’s in the tent in the living room, to remind us of why we are in the storm to begin with. And to remind us that even in the storms, we can prosper. We can grow stronger. We can find happiness. We can share love. Even when the world outside is spinning and crashing and shaking the door. We can still know that there is something worth surviving for. We can find joy and let it guide us. There can be a rainbow on the other side.