East Coast – New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and any other area affected by Hurricane Sandy’s wrath, I’m praying for you. The images I’ve seen this week of the devastation Sandy has left in her wake are absolutely heartbreaking. Growing up on the Gulf Coast in New Orleans, I’m all too familiar with the destruction of hurricanes. Just about my entire family and myself lost everything in Hurricane Katrina. And when I say everything, I do mean everything. Evacuating for Hurricane Katrina seemed like such a routine thing. Like I said, growing up on the Gulf Coast pretty much means you become a pro at weathering hurricanes. My rationale – oh we’ll be gone for a few days just like every other time and then we can go back home and everything will be fine.
Boy, was I ever wrong. I still remember sitting in the hotel room in a random northern Louisiana town with my mom and watching the news coverage of my beloved city – really the only place I’d ever called home, wrecked and ravaged before my eyes. And I’m writing this not to deflect attention from the East Coast and what they’ve just been through, but to let all of my Easterners know if there’s anyone that understands the heartbreak, pain and loss you feel at this moment, I do. Homeless, been there. Lost every possession except for the clothes in your small evacuation suitcase, been there. Precious memories and mementos erased in the storms floods, winds and rains, been there too. Perhaps one of my biggest regrets in life is not taking those little things like photo albums and yearbooks, things that can never be replaced. Now there’s hardly any baby or childhood pictures, no special keepsakes or yearbooks, and no prom and debutante gowns.
But the good news (if there’s ever any good news to be had out of tragedies such as these) is in the following weeks and months you will discover strength and determination you never knew you had. Your faith in humanity will be restored and you will be touched by the acts of kindness you’ll receive from complete strangers. You’ll work to rebuild your neighborhoods and develop and foster a sense of community with those neighbors that you never could have even imagined before.
You’ll perhaps re-discover what’s really important in life – health, family, finding joy in the little things, and realize that material possessions are just that, and they’re not a determinant factor of your happiness, health, and well-being. You’ll learn to not sweat the small stuff and to be thankful for even the tiniest of blessings. And perhaps best of all, somewhere someday when tragedy strikes someone else out there – you’ll remember all of the amazing people who helped you overcome in your time of need, and you’ll pay it forward.
To help out all of our friends on the East Coast visit the American Red Cross to make a donation. Every little bit counts! Hang in there East Coast. We’re rooting for you.