Did you ever notice that the happiest people are not always the most privileged? Having said that, there is very little to be happy when you are poor and/or homeless. Most of us have ordinary concerns. Paying for college educations, living in a good neighborhood, affording an automobile that is serviceable. That is what we think about, and in general we are doing OK.
This Thanksgiving Season we are seeing many of our neighbors who only wish they had those mundane problems. I have seen some of the destruction of the South Shore first hand and have enlisted my sons and myself in that vast army of helpers. That army is out there doing a service for many people who they have never met. The outpouring of help has been reassuring that we will always exist as a people.
Perhaps this is part of the American culture, and maybe it is simply what human beings do in general. Whatever this phenomenon is, it is encouraging. Sending money to service organizations is helpful and needed. Participation by local and federal agencies is also essential, but putting your “shoulder to the wheel” is help that has a human face. We should be encouraged to give what we can, but it is important that we show-up.
The message for Veterans Day was missed. Being without power, internet, and telephone service makes modern communication almost impossible. Well we are back and the story today is as important anything that I can think of. The stories of loss and disruption caused by Hurricane Sandy has been well served by Newsday and there have many great stories of heroism, sacrifice and community action. I applaud them.
My personal experience was inconvenience but otherwise there was no property loss or even any loss of the trees that I have on my property.
But the losses in Howard Beach, Rockaway, Long Beach, Staten Island and other places we all know were devastating. Jon Stewart on Monday night opened his show on a somber note. Those of us who watch Stewart’s Daily Show know that he opens his show with a laugh line. Monday he looked in the camera with no smile on his face and said, “These places that were so hard hit are the neighborhoods of our first responders. These are the people that come out to save the rest of us when we are in trouble. We need to do something for them. The best thing you can do is show-up and be ready to work real hard and help them. If you can’t do that, then give your financial support to agencies that can help.”
Some of us who fared well joined with those that did not. I and my two sons went to Howard Beach to help friends and relatives that suffered enormous losses. This weekend we, with others, unloaded the contents of five houses and cleared the boatyard near the houses. The work was dirty, hard and unrelenting. Ripping out the contents of these houses could not be done without realizing that we were taking peoples “lives” and depositing them in trash heaps that would later be picked up by NYC sanitation trucks.
I can only imagine the pain people feel at this point. It was painful for us and it wasn’t even our stuff. There is, however, something else happening. It feels great being with the people and helping them. They appreciate the efforts the volunteers make. There must be a feeling that reflects they are not alone. Knowing there is a caring community that they can see standing next to them makes them stronger. It makes us, the volunteers, stronger too. If you can, I urge you to put on your overshoes, safety masks, and work gloves and pitch-in