Thursday, February 24, 2005
My most recent published article for Senior Life was very personal and unsolicted.
It felt good to have a query accepted. I was encouraged to build on my initial query
Will Life Ever be Normal Again?
It’s time to put the storms of 2004 behind us and return to normal life, whatever that is. But how can we return to normal life when nothing is normal anymore? How can we return to our routines when we know that our familiar routines and habits are dangerous or almost impossible to resume? When there are trees and power lines or miniature lakes where we once took our daily walks, we have to find alternative routines and outlets.
When the home we visited last month has finally washed into the ocean or our favorite place has been condemned as unsafe, what are we supposed to do? We have to find new routines, new people, new places, and maybe a new way. Now is the time to reach out a helping hand, so that we can help others return to their routines, too. Sometimes, the best way to return to life as we knew it, is to do something out of the ordinary.
Maybe we aren’t strong enough or skilled enough to replace a roof or remove a downed tree or other debris. Maybe we aren’t qualified to direct traffic, but each of us is qualified to smile or wave at those we pass. We may not all be skilled in the art of rebuilding a home, but each one of us is skilled enough to call on a neighbor, just to check in or be sure all is well. No degrees or special education is required to bring soda or lemonade to someone who is working hard to help every one of us. When was the last time someone surprised you with some cookies or a glass of ice water? If you can remember how special that made you feel, then you know that this is the perfect time to do the same for someone else.
We all have to realize that this is not a personal tragedy, even though our own interrupted lifestyles can be tragic, if we allow them. Take a walk or a drive around your neighborhood, or venture a little further out, and see that all over the county our neighbors are striving and struggling to return their homes, their businesses, and their lives to normal. You’ll see that there is more work to be done than there are qualified workers to do it. Long after our utilities have been restored, roofers and other contractors will be working, some late into the night with special lights. People will be picking up debris and putting their lives in order for many months. Many contractors are working long, difficult hours to help us all return to normal. Remember none of us is in this alone.
Anyone who has been touched in any way by the recent hurricanes is suffering through his or her own tragedy. Some are more distressed than others, and some are more able to deal with greater misery than others, but that does not mean that one person’s misfortune is more or less grave than another’s. Now is the time for us to reconsider what it truly means to live in a community.
Maybe now is the time to adopt new, yet old habits that our parents and grandparents used. It’s called loving-kindness and we are each capable of extending this to our friends, neighbors, and total strangers. Patience, consideration, and putting yourself in the shoes of the other person can help us all get back to normal. We may not get back to normal any more quickly by practicing the old habits of just being kinder, but we will all feel better just for having tried. When we remember that in most cases, the reason our repairs are taking so long, is that the contractors have other people ahead of us; our repairs don’t get done any quicker, but we don’t mind the wait quite so much.
During times like this, while we are struggling individually and collectively to return our lives to that which is familiar and comfortable, we need to remember what we did before things changed. Pick up the phone and call someone you haven’t spoken with in a while. Write a letter or send a greeting card. Visit the library and read that book you’ve been planning to get around to. Changing your routine might be the best way to get your life back to normal. If you have time, volunteer. Now, more than ever, agencies need volunteers to help get our community back to normal. Even if you feel unqualified to volunteer, giving a call to see what an agency’s requirements are can boost your own morale. Maybe you know someone else who would be perfect for a job. See how good you’ll feel after making just one phone call. See how quickly you can return your life back to normal.