Needless to say, Hurricane Sandy's devastation is unprecedented in our area. The harrowing photographic images of Sandy's aftermath and the unceasing stories of hardship are heartbreaking and depressing. Amidst this sorrow, can there be a bright side? I didn't think so – until my sister referred to Hurricane Sandy as “life affirming”.
Say what? Destruction and loss are life-affirming? Understandably, those directly affected by Sandy might not agree, but thoughtful consideration proves my sister correct.
Unless you reside under a rock, the outpouring of public support and good will stirred by Sandy is hard to miss. While making donations at two local churches (St. Benedict in Holmdel and Mary Mother of God in New Monmouth), I was astounded by the amount of food and clothing collected, and the number of people, including some from out of state, streaming into the churches with donations. There were buses from First Baptist Church of Haskell, OK in the Mary Mother of God parking lot. A musician friend of mine performed at MJs last week to a crowd that included members of the Mississippi state police here to assist. Oklahoma or Mississippi to New Jersey is quite a distance traveled to lend a hand to total strangers.
Sandy has drawn people together. During the power outage, residents of New Monmouth's Tomaso Plaza senior complex cooked the contents of their freezers and refrigerators on a barbecue grill and shared with one another, assuring that nobody in the building would go hungry without power to prepare meals individually. When Castle of Dreams, an animal rescue organization based in Keyport, posted a facebook request for sweaters, blankets, dog food, and other necessities for pets displaced by Sandy, donations poured in, filling truck after truck. Friends of mine from Illinois, Maryland, and Canada answered the call and also generously sent donations.
In addition to the organized relief efforts of the Red Cross, local churches, and focused organizations like Castle of Dreams, it's the personal touch, one individual reaching out to another, that makes Hurricane Sandy life affirming. On Staten Island, seventeen year old Amanda Casella collected hundreds of photographs discovered strewn about the debris of demolished homes and is doing her best to return these mementos to their proper owners. Four year old Katherine Schell from Kansas City told her parents she wanted to help children who lost their stuffed animals during Sandy; Katherine, her parents, and her neighbors raised $1,800 to purchase and deliver new stuffed toys to needy little ones in New York. Monmouth County musicians Steve Reilly and Steve DeVito are organizing a benefit concert for those in need (go to S.O.S. - Save Our Share on facebook for further info.) Facebook canine celebrity, Millie LaRue, is holding an on-line auction of some of the finery in her doggy closet and donating all proceeds to organizations assisting displaced pets. (To participate, go to Millie LaRue's facebook page; auction ends 3:00 pm Sunday, November 18th.)
It's human nature to succumb to sadness while amidst Hurricane Sandy's shocking destruction, but tragedy stirs human emotion and pulls from within the best - and sometimes the worst - in people. Yes. There's hardship. Yes. There are price gougers and looters. But the good people who have taken action to assist others far outweigh the bad.
My sister is right. Hurricane Sandy, though tragic, has reaffirmed the goodness in people.