Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Wednesday's Words for September 3, 2008

I’ve experienced a lot of things in this life; but I have never been forced from my home, not knowing if everything that forms the foundation of my life would be there when I returned, or not.

Two million people left their homes last weekend in the face of the approach of Hurricane Gustav. I can’t wrap my head around that. That is a phenomenal number of people, and their peaceful evacuation an amazing accomplishment when you think about it. They left behind everything that encompasses their lives, taking only what they could stuff into cars or, in the case of those boarding buses and trains into backpacks and garbage bags, and left.

Without a doubt, those people who evacuated saved their lives, and the lives of their loved ones. Perhaps the storm turned out not to be as bad as it could have been, but that doesn’t negate the courage of their actions, nor the efficacy of their evacuation.

For those of us who’ve never been ordered out—either in the face of an approaching storm, or in the middle of the night after a train derailment that spilled dangerous chemicals or after a propane blast shakes our neighborhood—it’s hard to imagine how difficult the leaving might be. We tend, we humans, to think in terms of the tangible. Our home is a tangible place and a symbol to us. Our home is our refuge, our safe harbour. It’s the one place we go to in order to escape danger. The idea that staying in our home can put us in danger is a concept that’s very difficult for our minds to accept.

It’s the reason why in the past some people haven’t gone when they’ve been ordered to go.

We all become amazingly attached to not only our homes, but our things, don’t we? We stake our ground, our space, and fill it with stuff, and sometimes we let that stuff define who we are. I know that I get up each morning, and before I do anything else, I turn on my computer. Please don’t ask me what I would be doing every day if there was no such thing as a computer, because I don’t have a clue.

I’m particularly guilty of micro-managing my immediate environment, surrounding myself with all sorts of things that I likely could do without. It’s comfortable and I have a sense of power, of control, as I sit in my office surrounded by my things.

But that feeling of control is really only an illusion.

We none of us have power or control, ultimately. The people of the Gulf States couldn’t control the storm that was coming toward them; they could only control their reactions to it, by leaving.
The control we do have, if exercised correctly, can make all the difference in the world. It all comes down—as so much in life does—to choices.

Today people are waiting anxiously to return to their homes and resume their lives, while thousands work to restore electricity and repair what damage the hurricane did inflict. Now that the imminent danger is passed and the worst didn’t happen, life in the emergency shelters is becoming stressful. Everyone just wants it to be over, they just want to go home.

My only worry, as I scan the news stories, is for the future. Everyone left this time, and the storm wasn’t as bad as expected.

We’ve seen this cycle before, in Florida. Everyone hunkers down and prepares for the worst, and later makes the false judgement that because the worst didn’t happen, their efforts were wasted.

I hope and pray that next time, for everyone living where nature likes to come and play so destructively, that when the call goes out for evacuation, they do as they did this time, and go.

Homes can be replaced. People cannot.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another very thoughtful post.

I felt the same way after the earthquake in Sichuan, China. I thought to myself "those parents had so many hopes and dreams for their kids, they'd never expect that the next day they had to dig their children's body out of the rubble."

These disasters teach us that we are hardly rulers of nature, but rather beings who have to exist in and survive these unpredictable circumstances.

This a 3 min mp3 about New Orleans' Versailles recovery: