The last few days have been tough for the place I call home. South Alabama and the Florida panhandle were hit with a devastating hurricane. Originally supposed to hit New Orleans, then Mississippi as a weak category 1 or even a tropical storm, most people chose to ride it out. Honestly, I would have, too. However, Sally slowed, creeping along at 1 MPH at times, and grew to a category 3. Thankfully, before it hit, it weakened to a 2, but by then it was too late for people to leave or truly prepare, and the slow movement meant these areas were POUNDED by heavy winds, rain, and storm surge for HOURS.
As I awoke yesterday, I thankfully had a text from my dad saying they were safe, and most of my family had already checked in. However, everyone had some sort of damage, and they are all without power.
I had a lot of time to think back to exactly 16 years ago when Hurricane Ivan hit. My mom, sister, brother, and I rode it out with my grandparents, while my dad remained in Fairhope to help during the storm. I was 15 at the time, and when the storm was over, my family was homeless. Blessed with family, friends, and an awesome community, we thankfully had a roof over our head, but living through the storm and the aftermath was something that changed me.
Now, post storm, you will see the best and worst of people. But I remember the best. Linemen will leave their own families and work grueling hours to restore power. Doctors, nurses, and pharmacist are still going in to work so that you will have healthcare and medicine. Normal people are going out to cut down trees from their neighbor’s yards, to clear roads, to watch other people’s kids so essential personnel can go to work. Police, firemen, and the Coast Guard are logging record calls and have been even during the storm to save others. People are cooking what they can without power (grills, camping stoves, or whatever they can plug into a generator) and feeding more than just their families. People with power are offering their homes as a sanctuary to recharge phones or merely a place to rest with A/C. Groups like the Cajun Navy are going to help, using their own boats, trucks, and gas to rescue complete strangers.
I speak from experience. Not only did I learn to appreciate the simple things, but I also saw the good in people. Our family, friends, and community rallied behind us. Complete strangers gave us things like school uniforms and replaced our school supplies so our parents had one less thing to worry about when school started again. Family friends in Wisconsin were willing to drive all the way to us with a generator. A family friend took his house off the market so our family would have our own place to live while we built a new home. There was so much I could list!
People will put on a brave face when confronted with the loss of their home or belongings because they are just thankful to be alive and unhurt. But behind closed doors, there is grief. Yes, people are thankful to be alive, but that doesn’t negate the loss of things they have worked hard to build. It doesn’t alleviate the stress of clean up, replacing, and rebuilding. Some will have insurance, but in that area, deductibles are often massive, and it still means countless hours inventorying everything lost, phone calls (which are difficult in places because of spotty cell service), and the work behind replacing and rebuilding.
I write this well aware that areas of Louisiana are still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Laura, and states like California, Oregon, and Washington are battling with massive wildfires. In a country still struggling from so much this year, it’s like salt in the wounds.
Remember the good. Remember to help if you can. Remember that people are hurting, struggling, and maybe they just need someone to pray with them or offer them encouragement. The media is so quick to show the bad and then move on to the next big disaster. But quite often, they overlook the good. They will overlook the fact that people are busting their butts right now to help others without regard to color, race, gender, or religion. That people are giving when they are also trying to cope with the effects of the storm themselves.
If you can give, find local churches and charities to give to. They are more likely to utilize your contributions to help those in need. At the moment, I am trying to find resources, and I will update as I do.
And pray. Pray for those out working and leaving their families behind to work and help. Pray for those who have lost and are faced with the task of rebuilding, and for those who won’t be able to rebuild their homes and businesses. Pray that power can be restored quickly and pray for protection for the linemen as they work; they want power restored just as much as you do! Pray for Alabama and Florida.