What Hurricane Irma Has Taught Me So Far
I am writing this post as hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded, is scheduled to hit Florida, the state that I reside in. During the preparation for this powerful storm, I took some time to reflect on what really matters in the time of a crisis such as this.
I have experienced three hurricanes in Florida, so I am not new to this. However, the magnitude of Irma far surpasses anything that I have been through before. People in Florida are frantically stocking up on batteries, water, food, and gas. Almost everyone is at least a little anxious while we wait for this potentially devastating storm to arrive and, hopefully, pass quickly.
Yet, amidst the anxiety and worry, I have noticed many instances of people being kind and caring, despite the shortages of vital items. For example, I was at the grocery store and I saw a couple holding 2 canisters of propane for their propane stove (during a hurricane, it is very likely to lose power and many people resort to using propane to cook and boil water). I had already stocked up on propane a few days earlier, buying 4 canisters for myself, but asked the couple exactly where in the store they found the propane canisters they were clutching in their hands. The husband looked at me and told me that they grabbed the last 2 canisters in the store and that there were none left. He then proceeded to unselfishly offer me one of those canisters. I was very touched by this and declined his offer, telling him that I already had 4 of my own at home. I also told him that it was very kind for him to offer me one canister, especially since they are in such short supply right now. He smiled at me and replied, “We have to share, you know?”. I simply nodded my head in agreement and felt a deep sense of happiness inside in response to his kindness and philosophy.
In addition to this wonderful act of kindness, I have also witnessed many others. I know someone who, unsolicited, offered to help anyone, even strangers, needing help preparing for the hurricane. I have read about people helping pregnant mothers and the elderly board up their windows. I have seen others taking the time to post on Facebook where there were available supplies of gas, water, propane, and bread, commodities in short supply. I know of someone who was outside of Florida but filled her vehicle with water and drove back to help others in need. I have witnessed people offering others food since grocery stores are running low. I know of people who have offered up their homes to others living in more hurricane-prone areas. I have seen people patiently offering valuable advice to others on how to prepare for the storm. Some business owners have vowed to keep their businesses open for their customers in need. I have heard of people helping others to fill sandbags, an arduous task. College students are taking advantage of cancelled classes to help the needy with what they need. I have had family members and friends from around the world check up on me. The list goes on.
During any crisis or emergency situation, most people begin to realize what truly matters to them and what they really value. Materialistic items like the Xbox, the fancy dress or shirt, the slick Mercedes in the garage, the grand house in an upscale neighbourhood, the glittering wristwatch, and the 70-inch TV suddenly become trivial. Instead, family, good friends, drinkable water, food, clean air, health, safety, community, the environment, and a decent place to sleep become paramount. Danger has a peculiar and powerful way of waking us up and bringing us to our senses.
If you study the traits and habits of the happiest and longest-lived people around the world, you will likely find that these cultures place emphasis on things that they consider truly important without needing a periodic catastrophe to remind them to do so. Many of these people have suffered in some way in the past and, therefore, have had life-changing experiences. They generally value health, family, healthy food, clean water, a sense of community, safety, peace, movement/exercise, kindness, laughter, happiness, and purpose. They place little value on prestige, fancy cars, austentatious homes, and cocktail parties. They spend their time on the important things that really matter in the long run. More importantly, they have taken the time to figure out what is truly valuable to them in the first place.
I believe that goodness can emerge out of any type of situation, even bad ones like a major hurricane. Even though the hurricane is 2 days away and creating a lot of worry, so many people have elected to be kind, exercise patience, go out of their way to help others, have a sense of humor, and focus on all that they DO have by practicing gratitude. Until we experience a power outage for a few days, we often take for granted luxuries such as electricity, air conditioning, clean running water, a cozy home to sleep in, family, close friends, a safe environment, nice weather, etc. For example, knowing that I am likely to lose power in the next few days makes me greatly appreciate the cold air from my air conditioning blowing gently in the room right now. All of us could stand to gain from becoming more conscious about and grateful for the simple blessings we often take for granted, whatever that might mean to each of us in our own personal way.
Too many of us only find out what really matters to us when it is too late, or at least much later than necessary. We focus on what other people think of us, our cars, our homes, our looks, our resentment of others who have done us wrong, our job titles, etc. These traits do not bring us lasting happiness and they never will. Very often, a major life-event occurs and jolts us back into reality, forcing us to reevaluate our sense of invincibility and what we really care about.
I suspect that, with all the kindness displayed by others during these pre-Irma days, there will be much more in the days to come and also after the hurricane departs. It brightens my day to know that so many people have figured out what really matters in life and actually go around manifesting it in their lives. It also serves as an effective reminder and encourages me to constantly reevaluate what my own values and priorities are so that I can focus more time and effort on them rather than on frivolous things. Only by focusing on what is truly important to us can we live our happiest, healthiest and most fulfilled lives.
Even from a bad hurricane, many good things can emerge.