Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, Uncle P had no electricity, heat, Internet access or landline phone between Monday night and Thursday afternoon. And as of this writing, I know several people in my area who still have no power or heat. Of course, there are folks to the east and north who have lost far more and my heart goes out to them. I cannot begin to imagine the kind of devastating losses they are suffering and I am so very grateful to just have a roof over my head, at this point. Indeed, uprooted trees have deprived many in my town of even that.
While this may well seem like a First World problem rant, I really want to talk about how the past week has given me a new appreciation of the plight of folks in the Third World, who deal without electricity and heat on a daily basis.
I grew up (as probably most of you did) in a world where I took things like hot water and TV for granted. When the power would occasionally go out during a storm, it was usually a minor inconvenience, lasting few hours at most. When Katrina hit the Western Gulf Coast, I clucked my tongue and railed against a seemingly unresponsive Bush administration. I was horrified by the destruction and saddened by the many deaths left in the storm's wake. Last year, when Irene caused so many problems in New Jersey and New England, I did much the same. It wasn't until Sandy hit so close to home that I truly gained perspective on either storm. Even then, the relative minor inconveniences I experienced pale in comparison to the losses suffered by so many others in Sandy's path of destruction.
This morning, my Facebook status read "Oh, glorious hot shower! I shall never take you granted again." My sweet, gorgeous friend David commented "Of course you will. Your (sic) human." And while David is probably right, I hope to make a conscious effort to appreciate all that I do have in a new light. The hot shower I took this morning was practically revelatory and as much as I loved it, I couldn't help but think of those nearby who still didn't have that luxury, which led me to think of those who have never had that luxury. While I hate to distill such episodes to platitudes and cliches, I can't help but think "I complained because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet."
Be grateful every day for what you do have and never take it for granted. Complain only when it is truly warranted, but always know there are others worse off. Help those in need when you can and appreciate everything you have. You never know when it might all be wiped away.
Were I a religious man, I might say: "Thus endeth tonight's lesson." And even though I am not religious in any way, I think it still applies.