What I Learned From Irene

For almost a week now, much of the east coast has been struggling with the aftermath of hurricane Irene. Most of us know exactly how devastating this storm was. It is hard not to be frustrated and discouraged, but I have also been inspired by some of what has accompanied the recovery.

Neighbors working together

The day after the storm I came across some of my neighbors clearing a fallen tree from a town park. I learned that these neighbors share a chainsaw and wood splitter so that they can help each other collect firewood for the winter. What an amazing way to demonstrate generosity and save some resources.

Clearing Roads

Upon taking a trip down some back roads I saw that many, many trees had been cleared from the road. I learned that a caravan of local men with pickup trucks and chainsaws had set out at 6:00am to clear roads around the county. What a fantastic demonstration of taking responsibility for the needs of your community, and watching out for the needs of neighbors.

Talking to Strangers

After 18 hours with no electricity I took a 30 mile drive to spend several hours at a Starbucks that did still have power. I found that many others had the same idea. This Starbucks was a refugee camp of people displaced by their lack of electricity and internet access. People of all ages were carrying armloads of electronic gadgets that needed charging. Hanging around at this coffee shop, and at several other stores and gathering places since then, allowed me to experience the community that forms around common experience, and especially common suffering.  I saw a couple who asked a lonely little boy to join their card game. I saw people strike up conversations with people they would usually overlook. Why does it take disaster to drive us together?


While Facebook has been full of complaints and selfish comments about the storm recovery there has also been some great encouragement going around.

“I just realized this morning how spoiled Americans and just people in general are… Myself included..since I too was growing impatient about the power not being on. Gas stations running out of gas because people want to power generators all day and night..why? Because we’re so dependent on electricity… What will we do when it’s all gone and no restoration possible?…working on my Patience fruit. :)”
“I’d like to thank WAVY News 10, plus FOX/CNN for all the coverage of the storm on both radio and television, as well as all the folks at Dominion who worked around the clock to restore service. With 1.2 million out of power, I’m very surprised it only took 2 days for us to get it back here.”
“Bored? I’ve seen that posting a bunch of times. Change focus off self. How can we help a neighbor? Take them water? Or a meal? Or clean up the damage in the yard? It’s especially hard on our older friends and neighbors. There is NO reason for anyone to be bored! Visit a shut-in. Be a friend.”
“No electricity but—-it is well w/ my soul. Lots of shingles blown off roof and evidence of leaks but— it is well w/ my soul!! Trees down in the yard but—it is well w/ my soul. I am learning (again) what the Apostle Paul meant by ‘for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.’ It feels so nice to slow down and appreciate simple things we often take for granted!”
“I just want to stop and say how grateful to God I am for his protection during the storm, not to mention the abundance of firewood he provided for this winter!”
I always have a choice. When challenges and struggles come I can be selfish and bemoan my situation, or I can be thankful and serve others.

One Response to “What I Learned From Irene”

  1. I loved what you learned. I not only have actually enjoyed the downtime with hubby the storm created, but we accomplished several projects that we kept pushing aside because we didn’t have time. So I want to Thank 1st God for our circumstances and the opening of our eyes to the goodness of others. Then thank all of the people who provided so many long hours of service to care for us fellow citizens.

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