It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve written. And I have the Grandaddy of all excuses. Hurricane Dorian.
I live on the coast of North Carolina about 4 miles or so from the water. Far enough not to be able to see it but when the wind is right, close enough to smell it.
Last year for Hurricane Flo, we left. This year, we stayed. The reasons were numerous but mostly, it was because most people in our work and neighborhood communities were staying and we wanted to be with them.
For people who have never been through it, it’s hard to understand why you would stay in harm’s way. After all, aren’t you putting material things ahead of your own safety?
I get it. I used to be that person. Until Flo.
We left last year when Flo hit. We saw our neighborhood take on water. We saw other neighborhoods flood completely. And we couldn’t get home.
We couldn’t get home to take care of our home. We couldn’t get home to check in with our neighbors or friends from work. My students and colleagues. We could not get back to our people.
It took us a week and two separate attempts to get back.
We decided together that if another came, we would stay. And we did.
The days leading up to the hurricane were pretty surreal. I made multiple trips to the grocery store to lay in supplies just in case. Eight cases of water. Batteries. Candles. Granola bars. Canned goods. Charcol.
Are you staying? The question was on everybody’s lips. Did you stay last time? Be safe.
Be safe. Be safe while taking a potentially huge risk.
Dorian came and went and luckily, we were spared.
We fared well. No or minimal damage for most. Schools lost two days instead of the 30 days we lost last year.
Ocracoke wasn’t so lucky. A barrier island with 1,000 full-time residents and no way out except by boat. They are still assessing the damage but it’s bad.
Here’s the thing about the coast of NC. We are all one big community. We take care of each other. FEMA doesn’t do it. The state doesn’t do it. We do it. Our churches and community organizations do it. Regular citizens do it.
They do it because it’s right. They do it because they want to contribute to what makes this place so special. They do it because we belong to each other.
I have talked about the importance of finding your community and being an active participant in it. It’s times like these that you become acutely aware of the importance of those connections.
Last year, our community was the recipient of tremendous goodwill and contributions from people across the state and nation. Now it’s our turn to give back to our brothers and sisters devastated by this storm.
Disasters bring out the best and the worst in people but for the most part, I see the best. I see the tremendous resilience of people who have suffered great loss. I see the kindness and generosity of strangers. I see the strength, faith and good works of people who have every right to quit or leave but don’t. They stay and they rebuild the communities they love so much.
We can all do more to connect with our communities. Find a church or organization that you can share your unique gifts and talents with. You may be surprised to find that you get back so much more than you give.