We are in “hurry up and wait” mode here. There’s a hurricane churning off the coast of our sunny state, threatening to wreak havoc on us. Folks run to the market, the gas station, the hardware store and wait in lines crowded with other anxiety filled fellow humans, wanting to be ready, to be as prepared as we can be for whatever the heck it is thats coming our way. So, we get ready and wait. Each day the forecast changes, sometimes it changes with each update, for the whereabouts of where it will make landfall and the intensity of wind it’s packing.
AND HERE is where my letter to you begins. Over the course of the last couple of days, I’ve been reflecting on the hurricane seasons I’ve seen over my lifetime. There were the not so big ones of my childhood, which were kind of an adventure. Because we lived in a wood framed house that sat up on stilts, (better known as concrete blocks) we never stayed home for a hurricane. We always went to a relatives house. The logic was that the wind would blow under the raised house and could blow the little pink cottage off its stilts. I guess this is a real thing, whatever, thats what we did. So we were always a guest in a relatives home, and that was ok, we were safe.
Fast forward to many years later when I moved back to my home state of Florida, with my children and experienced a wild ride of back to back hurricanes that would rock my safe little world to the core. At that time I was living in a rental home, and working hard at a little housekeeping business I’d developed.
In my prior married life, I had some friends that were single moms. I thought that I was empathetic to their struggle, I thought of myself as a good friend. But years later, when I was a divorced mother of three, working full time at my little business, I found out the hard way that I didn’t have a jumping clue of what life was like for people outside of my very small view, from the window of my former existence. That one where my husband worked and I did the kids and carpool, gardening, and took care of the one hundred year old home we were renovating. Years later I would join the mix of other working single moms.
And then hurricane season happened. I was renting a two story townhouse, when we got the news that there would be a pretty substantial hurricane coming our way. It’s time to “prepare”. I want to interject a few things here that you may or may not be aware of. If you are on a fixed income, as many people are, living from paycheck to paycheck and you are on a tight budget, running out to get supplies, extra gas, wood to board up with (when you’ve already spent your grocery money for the week) is not going to happen. Neither is the purchase of boards to board up your rental property, which many Florida landlords DO NOT take care of. I remember contacting my landlord about when he’d be securing the property and being informed that he was not responsible for that and if I wanted to board up, well have at it ! I was disheartened to learn that this is a typical thing with Florida landlords. If the place blew away, well then he could collect the insurance money. Everything my little family had left after the divorce, their childhood creature comforts that they’d grown up with, from beds to books were housed in that rental house, and now it would be vulnerable to the winds of an upcoming storm.
The next rude awakening I had was that all those dozens of homes I so lovingly and diligently cared for, owned by snow birds safe in their other homes up north, would not be issuing me a paycheck if the power was out. This brought me to an awareness of how many people there are who were in the same boat. I was self employed and paid by the job or by the hour. I’d never realized how devastating it can be to a family to be without even one day of work until I found myself in that number.
But in the middle of that terrible time, people showed up. Someone came and brought wood and boarded up my house, someone took us all in (including our dog) to weather the storm. And afterward, when we were without power for over a week and no paycheck from my job, people had us over to sleep in their air-conditioned homes, shared their shower, washer and dryer, etc…That was an extremely humbling experience. One that I will never forget.
I’ve been conversing with some of my childhood girlfriends over the last few days, reminiscing over those hurricanes of our childhood and those of our single mom-hood. We all recall when my friend needed a new roof, but had no funds. Another friend talked of the strain of working full time, having a child at home and having to figure out how she’d get her place boarded up before a storm came. Those were difficult times during those single working mom years. And there are many people at this moment who can’t really prepare, who don’t know how they’ll make it if they miss too many days of work. It’s a frightening time.
l am grateful for the lessons I learned during those years. I hope that those hard times have aided me in never forgetting my fellow man, never making judgements on why people do or don’t do things the way that would seem logical to me. The truth is, for the most part, we’re all doing the best we can with what we’ve got and I have no right to assume differently.
So take care, and take care of others. Practice kindness not judgement. If you see a home that’s not boarded up, now you know that it might just be a rental property with a crappy landlord. Maybe you’ll be the one to help that momma board up? If you see a home with a tarp on the roof, take them a few extras, it might be a single momma in that house who can’t get the insurance company to do it’s job before the storm. I pray that I never forget the lessons I’ve learned from those hurricane seasons.
I hope that you stay safe throughout the storm.