I’ve been a little distracted lately by hurricanes. We have family, friends and property in the path of Irma. We’ve been through this before having lived in Florida for six years and experienced at least that many potential big hurricane strikes. As lifelong Iowans, we initially thought hurricanes were like tornadoes. We were so wrong. Tornadoes hit fast in a relatively small area. They are here and gone. Hurricanes are slow moving, cover large areas and hang around for weeks. We got a crash course when Floyd, a Category 4 arrived in Florida soon after we did. We were fortunate that it ended up skipping around our location. Unfortunately for the folks in North Carolina, it hit them hard, and Irene did the same a couple weeks later. Tragic!
It dawned on me during the recent coverage of hurricane Harvey that the dark side of mother nature sure reveals a lot about human nature; the good, the bad and sometimes the ugly. Let me attempt to explain by taking you though a typical hurricane experience.
The first thing to understand about hurricanes is that there is a long lead time. You know for at least a week that it may be coming. The well-meaning folks in the media love to talk about it 24/7. Their intent is to make sure everyone is aware of the timing and severity, and therefore making appropriate preparations. What really happens is that a slow panic sets in. And the bad begins. It’s every man and woman for themselves. Grocery stores and gas stations are emptied. Hardware stores are busy selling generators, batteries and emergency necessities that have been ignored during the good times. And yes, people are pushy, rude and selfish…fear has that affect. And there is some ugly price gouging by a few to take advantage of the bad situation.
And then you wait to see if anything is really going to happen. You make your evacuation plan in case it is absolutely necessary. You try to live your normal life. In truth, everyone is completely distracted and on edge as the storm approaches. Most are continuously checking their devices for an update on the storm track. Why, I don’t know? A hurricane’s forward speed is typically around 15 miles per hour, a slow bike ride. Fear of the unknown makes us anxious.
Eventually the waiting ends as the future becomes clear. There is either panic and worry, or relief and gratitude. We were always in the latter situation so I really can’t do justice to explaining the former. I think it’s impossible to know unless you have personally experienced it. My daughter and her family are on the road out of Florida right now. I’ll ask her to share her feelings at some less stressful time.
Then it happens. The storm hits. Words can’t explain the devastation. Lets just say, it’s bad! Raging water, ripping winds and mass destruction of property. Recall the recent images from Harvey. Imaging yourself in the place of those in the path of Irma as you watch the coverage this weekend.
Now here is the really interesting thing. Immediately following the storm is where the good begins. Recovering from a tragedy seems to bring out the best in nearly everyone. We are generous with our time, talent and treasure. We are in our people helping people mode. All the divisions fade away. Our differences in race, religion, politics and whatever just don’t matter. We are all just people ready, willing and able to help each other out. Why is that? I believe it is because we are all good at our core. It’s our natural instinct. Helping others makes us happy. So why aren’t we in this mode all the time?
In interviews of impacted people they will inevitably say something like, “I just want things to get back to normal.” I disagree. From a people interacting with each other perspective, I’d like our immediate post-tragedy behavior to be the new normal. How do we make that happen? Do we need to manufacture tragedies. Creating a crisis to get what we want is a common strategy. Kids learn that early on. Want candy in the grocery store kid? Create a scene and bingo!
Actually, I think we are already in a perpetual state of tragedy, no need to create one. A hurricane of division, distraction and confusion about what is good, right and true. We could be nice to each other all the time. We could be unified all the time. We could help each other solve problems all the time. Why don’t we? I’m sure we could come up with many reasons. But I am also certain there is no really good reason.
How about we all do this. Aid the hurricane victims in whatever way you can. Pray that those impacted by Harvey and Irma are able to maintain a sense of hope and purpose to facilitate a speedy recovery. Try to imagine the sense of loss, anger, hopelessness and grief they must be feeling. Then go out with that sense of empathy and treat everyone else as though they were a hurricane victim. Be your best self by using your unique talents to serve others in a virtuous manner. Be saintspirational!
As always, thank you for taking the time to read this. These are just my thoughts, I’m always interested in yours. Godspeed to you all.