I was speaking the other night to a resident of Long Beach NY -- rather, a former and future resident of Long Beach, since her house is currently uninhabitable and she's been living with a series of compassionate friends since Sandy struck.
She said that one of the hardest things to cope with is the sense that everyone else in midtown Manhattan, where she works, is walking around like everything's normal, while she is still living out of bags and spending her spare time learning to navigate the world of FEMA and property insurance.
Of course, eventually it was gently pointed out to her that all those people *are* back to normal-- just like she was, in New York, a day after Katrina hit Louisiana. Chagrined, she vowed to travel to the aftermath of the next disaster, wherever it occurs, to help.
We won't hold her to that promise, though the impulse is understandable. Out here in western New Jersey, we're pretty much back to normal-- in fact, in a strange way, it's almost an "enhanced normal," because while the roads are cleared and the power's back, there's still enough evidence laying around-- uprooted trees, roofs decked in provisional plywood and tarp protection until the roofers' schedules open up again, wires drooping disconcertingly low to the road-- to remind us of how unfortunate we ended up *not* being.
I think it's probably safe to say that each of us knows someone who fared better in the storm. On the other hand, it's probably equally safe to say that we know-- or know of-- someone who fared worse. (If you don't, contact me and I'll tell you some stories.)
What does that mean? It means that all of us up here in Sandyland have at least two very meaningful prayers of gratitude to say tomorrow:
- First, that things aren't worse for us, thanks to luck (or grace, depending on your spiritual bearings) and the work, understanding, and financial support of friends, neighbors, and kind strangers; and
- Second, that we've been given so many opportunities to help those in need.
You heard right. Abraham-- the spiritual ancestor of all Christians, Jews, and Muslims-- was blessed by God not as a reward for being a swell guy, but "to be a blessing" to others. So on Thursday, count your blessings, then remember why you've been given more than others. It's called "Thanks giving," not "Thanks saying," and the hard work of giving that thanks-- being a blessing to others-- resumes first thing Friday.