November 1, 2012 by Meg G.
Like many of you, New Jersey and New York have been on my mind a lot these past few days. I grew up in Monmouth County (Freehold), spent many summers at a family home on the Jersey Shore (Bay Head), and made many family trips into NYC. While we here in Worcester lost power for a mere 30 minutes and while, thankfully, my family and friends in NJ and NYC are fine (although still without power), I am having a hard time getting back to “business as usual.” So, today’s blog post is my way of taking a break from cooking and getting back in touch with community.
I’ve been reading a lot of good posts around the web this week, all of which raise some really thoughtful questions. I stumbled upon a post by the CEO of Catchafire, entitled “How will you indulge in the luxury of #Sandy?.” She writes that in times like this, she is struck her own “luxury to make a difference, the luxury to give back, and the luxury to do meaningful work.” My own word choice would have been “privilege,” but luxury has a nice, rich, ring to it.
My former classmate Kat Greiner, who writes over at Daily Theology, reflected on how Hurricane Sandy forces us to ask questions that we don’t usually have to consider. She also wrote that “Sandy is reminding us that no matter how much we try to control things in our lives, we are ultimately not immune to external, uncontrollable forces.”
This got me thinking about the idea of vulnerability and power. A loss of electrical power renders us more than simply without power – it can make us powerless, in the broader sense of the word. Usually completely reliant on our light switches, refrigerators, and computers, we are lost without them. Add to that the tragic loss of life and property and memories and “home” and it is easy to feel powerless, out of control, and totally vulnerable. As a bystander hundreds of miles away from the disaster, I confess to feeling rather powerless myself.
But, having lived in pre- and post-Katrina New Orleans, I have also witnessed firsthand the power of community in the midst of tragedy.
I have seen people with nothing offer their whole selves to another. I have witnessed the outpouring of generosity toward a stranger. I have listened to stories of strength, courage, and perseverance. I have watched bus loads of volunteers descend upon decimated neighborhoods and pick up shovels and sledgehammers to begin the dirty work of gutting. I have helped groups of high school and college volunteers unpack their own moments of privilege and powerlessness. I have asked myself who I am and who I am called to be in the face of brokenness.
And, accompanied by so many neighbors, mentors, and strangers, I have come to conclude that it is not a lack of electricity that renders us powerless, but rather a lack of community.
So, while I am not able to be physically present to those in my home community, I am making a small donation to the American Red Cross. If you are able, I encourage you to do the same. There is also a need for blood donations, so if you are able to donate blood, do it!
If you’re curious about how you can make a greater impact, check out the Center for International Disaster Information, which has a toolkit for smart, compassionate relief assistance. The bottom line according to this thought leader on disaster relief? In most situations, cold, hard cash is the most effective way to contribute. These donations “allow professional relief organizations to purchase exactly what is most urgently needed by disaster survivors, when it is needed. Cash donations allow relief supplies to be purchased near the disaster site, avoiding the delays, steep transportation and logistical costs that can encumber material donations.” But be sure that you’re donating to a well-established and reputable organization.
Sending much love and hope to my community near and far!