On Being Grateful and Humble – by Cara Potapshyn Meyers
I would like to start off my blog with an apology to my lovely blogging cohort, Allison Silver. Allison, who lives across the country from me, wrote a wonderful, heartwarming blog about how, during Hurricane Sandy, PICU nurses were carrying critically ill babies down numerous flights of stairs to evacuate the building. It sent such a strong and important message about being so altruistic during times of tremendous disaster.
I happen to live right on the outskirts of New York City and felt the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation to the core. I had unsuccessfully spent two hours trying to just get out of my community on the day of Allison’s post and throughout my utter frustration, posted sort of a “reality check” comment about how horrible living in the wake of this natural disaster really was. I later apologized to Allison in a separate comment.
Life after Hurricane Sandy, ten days later is still unbelievably horrific. I have power at my home, so I am hosting two families still without power. Our children haven’t gone to school in a week and a half. There are limited food supplies in grocery stores because some of the stores had to throw away hordes of food, therefore people are practically stepping on your feet to get the last orange juice or loaf of bread. The absolute worst part is that there is very scarce gasoline available. The picture at the top of this blog is from the cover of a local newspaper and is not an exaggeration. People are literally lined up with gasoline containers for an hour or more. They are standing out in the cold to get a small ration of gas and then running to their cars to poor it in. I have been staying very local and am carpooling with neighbors to go grocery shopping or to run errands. When I say that the situation is dire, that is an understatement. I have never experienced anything like this in my lifetime.
On the flip side, I feel highly grateful and humble. I have a house that has no damage from the Hurricane. People who live ten to fifteen miles south of me lost their entire homes down to shards of wood and rubble. Schools have been completely destroyed. Trees in my own neighborhood have been uprooted and literally sliced homes in half. A tree which came out of nowhere landed on my next door neighbor’s front lawn. We still have no idea where it came from. So I am humbled. I am lucky. I am grateful.
My personal sentiments do not seem to be very widespread, however. Police have to monitor gas stations because actual fighting has occurred between individuals vying for their sparse ration of gasoline. There is pushing and shoving and yelling going on in grocery stores. Tempers are flailing everywhere. Thus the heading of the newspaper photo, “High Anxiety,” in all bold caps. Everywhere you go, you feel as if you are in a pressure cooker that is ready to blow. What makes it worse is that you can’t go anywhere. You monitor every drop of gas you are using to avoid waiting on line for gas for your car at 6 am, for an unknown, insane amount of time. The reality of living here is beyond surreal and also claustrophobic. There is nowhere to escape.
My home, my guests and my own little world have been a saving grace for my sanity and theirs. We have each other to vent to or to find comfort from. Our kids are staying with my husband in my Father-in-Law’s house as he has room to have them stay and a generator to keep them warm and fed. We call his home, “Camp Meyers” as there were up to seven children sleeping over at one point recently and my husband acted as their “Camp Counselor.” The kids were having so much fun together, they haven’t missed us one iota…truly. But as their parents we are thankful and relieved that they are all happy, entertained, safe, warm and well fed. It also allows us to concentrate on working off our laptops because the parents cannot get to their respective jobs. Some who work in New York City have no way of going to work due to limited train service, bus service and subway service, and of course, no gasoline. So we all cluster together over our favorite beverages and try to keep up with the outside world through the internet service I have. Along with those trusty laptops.
I felt that I had to share this unimaginable story because unless you are in the midst of it, you can very easily see it through rose colored glasses. Media shows you the devastation but follows it with stories that are heartwarming. Someone living 1,000 miles away from New York City sees and reads about this and probably surmises, how awful for those few who lost their homes, but look how others are coming together to help those in need. With close to a million people having lost power on Long Island and continue to live without power, this is reality. Shelters are forming in places of worship, local libraries and other large facilities. So many people are affected by this reality, it is mind boggling.
The saving grace through all of this are the bonds and friendships that have formed between three families who barely knew one another and are in my home. We are all now far more than simply “friends.” I feel that I can go over to one of their homes when their lives are put back together and give a courteous knock on their door and let myself in just as easily as they come and go here. Having my guests here has taken so much pressure off of what is out there in our community because what we have here is so comfortable and free flowing. I get delight out of helping and caring for my guests. That is my nature. I love to give of myself and sincerely expect nothing back in return. These are my friends, now almost my family. I am filled to the brim with humility and gratitude. And we will all eventually get through this catastrophe together, side by side, and holding each other’s hands in relief and in gratitude.