Hurricane Matthew: Pause & Reset... Pause Again
Headquarters for Children Inspiring Hope is in Savannah, Georgia. Most of you have heard by now that a Category 2 Hurricane hit us in the night at full tide. Record sea level of 12. 5 reached one of the barrier islands, and created flooding through out town. Winds blew down trees EVERYWHERE, many of them ancient oaks that have been standing for over a hundred years. The waters have receded, schools have resumed after 8 days out, but the clean up will likely take months. And yet, we were so fortunate… we aren’t in Haiti. If you aren’t from here, or haven’t lived on the eastern seaboard, it was likely a passing story. You got a snippet of the potential impending doom, and a highlight real of the worst scenarios, and the media moved onto other storms, literally and figuratively. Yet, there was so much good, and it was an opportunity to reset our day-to-day routines and be reminded of what matters most, and, look beyond ourselves.
As a storm nears, we do a quick evaluation. Do we stay? Should we go? When do we go? What do we take with us, i.e. what is most valuable and irreplaceable? This is the pause.
For me, it was a quick survey, and these were the items I packed in the car to higher ground in the comfort of friends home:
- • My daughter, the most precious thing in our world • Two bags of CIH equipment, computers and hard drives- the hard work and precious images that capture the power of connecting children globally, and needed for our upcoming 18th Exchange in Ghana next week • A basket of Sacred items: A letter written by my great grandfather to me when I was 5 days old, along with his album of surveying the west, a hand drum made with a friend and former Chief of Wasauksing Nation, a quilt made of African fabrics from one of my dearest friends, other sacred items that connect me to those I love and the natural world gathered on the journey • Photo albums (but not all of them)- our memories of time shared with friends, family and loved ones, and nature • Food and water
That’s it. It wasn’t even a full car. That is the reset….
We encourage reflection with our students during our exchanges; to really soak in the experience of a comparative context, reflect on the lessons gained, and integrate the knowledge, mind and heart.
In reflecting on this experience, a few things have struck me most in this process.
- The shear volume of things we collect in the U.S. and how few of them make the most valuable list. It is mostly just STUFF. • Life over things. That some did not heed the warming to evacuate, and there are children without their parents, because they were protecting things. • The power of social media that kept us connected to home, the destruction, but also the flood of gratitude for the linemen and all those helping clear the trees and debris. • How it was just another Thursday in the city we fled to. There wasn’t the visceral and palpable anxiety of a city preparing and under evacuation. Kids were at school. Parents were at work. Sports and activities ensued in the evening. Just another Thursday… • What it means to have infrastructure. The storm passed and droves of power trucks were lined up from all over the southeast to come restore power. Power for most of us was restored within a week, nothing short of miraculous! Mail resumed even quicker! • Working together. Neighbors were in the streets helping each other. With no power, and no TV, neighbors were being neighborly. Kids played in the street. Stars were visible to gaze at without the barrier of city light pollution. It was quiet (at least until the cacophony of generators started.)
And now, less than two weeks post-storm?
How quickly we get back to the day-to-day, and forget the pause. Forget the lessons. Specifically, I mean the complaints about the little things- cable being out, another day with kids before school returns, a personal unhappiness with a minor frustration…
I have always looked at any suffering, or even mild discomfort, as an opportunity to connect and empathize with others in those circumstances. They are opportunities to grow and expand. The storm was an opportunity to connect with gratitude, in a lasting way, about what it means to live in a country with resources and infrastructure.
Meanwhile, two weeks later in Haiti
- Over 1,000 are dead, which means many thousands are grieving. • Haiti doesn’t have infrastructure. There weren’t droves of trucks lined up ready to restore power. Not only is there no light, there aren’t homes. • Cholera is breaking out. • There is a food shortage, as they lost 80% of their crops.
Pause and reset.
Next week, we set off to Ghana, to share stories. Our theme is One World, Many Stories. The story of Hurricane Matthew is different in the US than it is in Haiti.
As the holiday season approaches, I wonder if we can pause to give to those in need, rather than fill our houses with more things that don’t make the pack list. Can we remember to work together, help each other in need- at home and far away- knowing, it isn’t just another day in Haiti today, or in many places in the world.
Ntifafa na mi (peace be with you all).