Hurricane Irma: Humanity's True Colors
"No matter how long the storm lasts, the sun shines behind the clouds" Khalil Gibran
Hurricane Irma is the 8th hurricane that I have experienced first hand, not to mention countless tropical storms. But, this one felt different. Perhaps as my own awareness (ie mindfulness) increases, I am more consciously aware of the behaviors around me. I felt like I needed to write something about this experience, but I was struggling to wrap my mind around what I needed to say. I have been both uplifted and disheartened by the actions and intentions of people as their true colors came through in a time of stress.
To end on a high note, I will actually start with what I found to be disappointing. While I realize everyone deals with the stress of a natural disaster differently, people from whom I expected a great deal proved to be disappointing. Let me preface this with saying I respect everyone's right to evacuate in the event that a storm of this size and strength is headed in their direction. However, I observed pets left in empty homes, responsibilities for property dumped off on friends or neighbors, and the general lack of concern for anyone but self. Many people who were not in recommended evacuation areas, used up resources and clogged the freeways as they fled. Upon return, individuals, who did not stay and ride out the storm, said they did not "see what the big deal was". This does not even begin to touch on the looting and hoarding of resources, after the storm had passed, in areas around the state. All of these actions and sentiments saddened and disappointed me.
The flip side is that kindness and the goodness of others touched my heart.
- Prior to the storm's arrival several of my neighbors were contemplating how we could assist one resident who was in her home on hospice and power dependent. In a twist that I can only see as blessing she did pass away a day before the storm that would have made her struggle more difficult.
- I observed my community come together. Helping each other board up, secure their homes and keep in contact during the storm to make sure everyone was safe.
- In the aftermath the same people shared resources such as food, generator power and man power to clear debris and to help everyone make due when services were so limited.
- A neighbor of mine who did go to a local shelter came home with a German family they had not previously met. This family was on vacation, were forced to evacuate their hotel, and were not provided with any assistance. They stayed in our neighborhood relying on the kindness of strangers for days until they could get transportation back to their home.
Thankfully the list of heartwarming stories could go on. I have had opportunity to talk at length with friends in my area who feel very much like I do. The true colors of individuals come shining through when things get difficult. I am very grateful for the examples of true kindness that I was honored to observe around me. The opposite observations are serving as a lesson to me in my pursuit of mindfulness to look at my behavior when things get tough and to make sure I model the behaviors that add value to those I encounter.