Hurricane Harvey left our friends and family in Texas devastated in the last few days of August 2017. Hurricane Irma is currently ravishing Florida. Thousands of people were forced to leave with nothing more than what they can carry on their backs, leaving many cherished, precious and timeless pieces of their lives behind to be overtaken by the rising water.
A childhood friend of mine and his family were one of those affected by the floods of Hurricane Harvey. They kept us all updated on their situation via social media posts both during and after the storm. The water kept rising and rising and rising; it felt like it would never stop rising. They waited as long as they could with their family of three, soon to be four, but the time came for them to leave and retreat to safety. My friend put his (almost) 2-year-old son, pregnant wife, himself and a few necessary hygiene and clothing items in a boat to ride to safety, just like thousands of other families.
I connected with him in the midst of it all while they were in a shelter shortly after they left their home. “We lost everything.”, he told me. My heart sank for him and his family. I also thought about the thousands of others in the same situation. My heart sank even deeper. “How can I help?”, was the only response I could think of at the time. “Keep praying for all those still stranded like we were.” he replied. Here he was in one of the most devastating moments of his entire life and he was encouraging me to think and pray for others.
His next response gave hope. “We may have lost everything when it comes to our ‘stuff’, but we are all together and safe. That’s all that matters. Our things can always be replaced. Hey, we may even come back better after all of this” he told me with gratitude in his voice. “Wow!” I thought. How BIG is what he just said?!
When we look at our lives in the most basic of forms, what are the things that matter the most? What absorbs the most of our attention?
For my friend, it’s clearly the people we love the most in our family and close friends. We’ve all heard the cliché, yet true, statement referring to material things, “You can’t take it with you when you die.” But why do we give material stuff so much energy and attention? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans spent over $56,000 last year on “things”. Housing, transportation, food and clothing were the largest categories. That’s more than some Americans make in an entire year!
I thought for a long time about what my friend said about the stuff they lost in the flood and what matters most to me. I can always replace a car, a closet of clothes, a living room stocked with cool electronics, but I can never replace the people closest to me. It was a sobering reminder of where my focus really should be: on the people I’m doing life with.
Another thing that’s been uplifting after these massive storms is the amount of support other people are freely giving, without hesitation. It’s been extremely moving and encouraging to watch my fellow humans coming to the aid of those folks who are in such a huge need right now! Millions of dollars are being donated to relief efforts and the Red Cross by major corporations from across the U.S., and thousands of people are taking time off from work and school to go and lend a hand wherever they possibly can. This is the United States of America that I know and am proud to see shining in the light for all to see.
So what are the most important take aways we should pull from these devastating events?
- Devastating events may bring us to a screeching pause, but we have the inner power to pick up and keep move forward.
- Losing things and restarting could be an opportunity to build something new and greater than before.
- A thriving life is not about the amount of stuff we can accumulate but entirely about the safety, well-being, and security we have with the people around us.
- Make sure you don’t let a moment of expressing love pass you by.
- Helping others in need is the core of what unites us. You may just need a hand extended to you one day.
God bless the people affected by these storms, the volunteers, and God Bless America!