The first thing you need to know is that no one ever complains. I've seen a few people cry, mostly about lost pets, but what they say is "we're so lucky."
They say "We're so lucky" as elders in their 80s and 90s put all the possessions of a lifetime out on the street to be hauled away as trash. One couple told me "We're so lucky - we saved our wedding album and one picture of all the grandchildren together." There wasn't time for more before they evacuated. "We're so lucky - the kids lost all their toys, but we're staying with friends who have girls the same size as mine, so they have clothes and things..."
They say "We're so lucky" as they contemplate the loss of their livelihoods. A friend told me "I was so lucky, we had stock up on the high shelves that didn't get touched, and I was able to get that over to the shelter and start feeding people right away." She lost her whole business.
They say "We are so lucky" as they look at their fields washed away. "We are so lucky...we saved our buildings at least, even though we lost our whole crop." "We are so lucky, we lost our buildings, but we got the stock out and the tractors." "We are so lucky, we lost everything, but we're all safe." None of them know yet how much help will be forthcoming or when.
They say "We're so lucky" despite the loss of beloved animals and livestock. "We're so lucky, we got the milk cows out, and three of the heifers" they say - even though they lost all the year's calves and the rest of the heifers and spent two days trapped in their hayloft.
They say "we're so lucky" when they have to evacuate again - after they cleaned up and dried off, when Irene seemed to be over, and then Lee sent the rivers rising again. "At least we're safe, at least we have friends to go to."
Everyone knows someone who has it worse. No one is lying when they say "We are so lucky." That's the part that's hard to believe - even the second time around, when those who evacuated the first time are weary and back in the shelters, when those who dodged the bullet last time now know that everything may be washed away, they say - and truly mean - "We're so lucky."
They smile when they say it. They make jokes - a friend who has no money to mend her basement which had two of her sons' bedrooms in it told me "At least we had already ripped the carpet out from the last time!" Another friend said "I'm getting to kind of like the smell of the mold treater." And always, they are lucky - and they know it. Every single person knows that it could have been worse, that there could have been less help, that there could have been worse outcomes.
Over the weeks and months and years that follow as people try to reclaim their lives, there will undoubtedly be moments in which people do not feel lucky. And yet I don't think that invalidates the universal courage and kindness, stoicism and honest recognition that they are fortunate that shine out of my neighbors and through my community. Looking to them now, I cannot but know that we are so lucky to have them.
That individuals can find the strength and grace to make statements like these may well be the candle that lights the darkness the future may (will) bring.
Sharon, could you make some suggestions about which organizations are responding to this disaster? I can find the good old Red Cross on my own, but I'd like my donation to find its way to those who are most immediately involved. Thanks.
What "withheld" said. I was born in Binghamton, now known as Atlantis, and lived in semi-rural central New York for my first 30 years, so I definitely want to do something to help the folks "back home."
We said the same thing after Katrina. And it was very true, we were so very lucky. But what I heard from many people where we evacuated to was that it was somehow our fault, that the victims were to blame, implying that something so bad could ever happen to them. This is the ugly side of disasters. People oftem blame the victims because that removes responsibility for caring or worrying that something similar could happen to you. I know this crowd isn't like that but I thought it was worth sharing.
Wonderful. Instead of getting mad and taking the government to task for global warming and an increase in these storms, the sheeple walk around bleating about being so lucky.
Pretty soon this will be a normal weather pattern for them and they can all join hands and sing while steadfastly thinking how lucky they are that the government takes care of them.
Sharon - this brought tears to my eyes. Please let us know if there's a way to help - like what "withheld" said.
And K demonstrates that even people who should be greatful for for what they have, and are untouched by this disaster, can still be an amazing whinebag.
Wonderfull post Sharon. It seems when push comes to shove most people just inherently understand what's most important and fall back on the hope for better day's. I'll be keeping your neighboors and other in the East in my prayers.
Beautiful. Thankfulness is indeed the attitude to have, and caring for one another the way to live (and antidote to self-pity.) Do let us know best means to assist.
a transplant from the East
K: this is a good weekend to remember that you learn a lot about people when shit happens. There are really three kinds: those who run away, those who freeze up, and those who run towards it to see what they can do.
And I'll add a vote for what "withheld" asked. I have family in the Delta country (and a sister-in-law from a Ninth Ward family) so Katrina was easy. Not hearing so much about New England. I know a little about how much disaster relief comes out of NE when there are fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc. around the world.
Don't hog the mitzvot, Sharon.
I think you have a handle here on a little studied aspect of why and how some H. sapiens are survivors. I think it needs more examination, understanding- and, well, just "more."
I have my own parallels to add; and they're really pretty astonishing. My farm got hit by a tornado this past summer. Real one. And we do find our selves saying and honestly feeling; "we're so lucky". It snapped off full grown oaks, 20 feet up, right next to our water pumping windmill. But the windmill was untouched. Etc.
Last week an old dear friend dropped in, as he does unannounced, twice a year. After two hours of talk, he dropped the bomb; "Two months ago I was diagnosed with leukemia."
Shock and horror. "No, I'm lucky, " he said; "it's the good kind." meaning, fairly treatable.
I'm still coping with the "lucky to have leukemia" outlook; but it's undeniably real.
Important, I think. More study is needed. Get a grant. :-)
Or put it in your book.
Just in case it wasn't clear- I am once again deeply impressed with your intelligence and humanity- in the way you put these observations together. You not only have a genius brain; you have a genius heart.
Plus that damn 6' Energizer Bunny body that does 4 times the work any of the rest of us manage.