By Esther Guzman, Director of the West Ward Neighborhood Partnership
As I sat watching the news and thinking of the destruction that Sandy may cause based on my experiences with hurricanes in Puerto Rico, it never dawned on me that in Pennsylvania, so far from the coast, we would experience power outages that lasted several days.
Lo and behold…at 8:45 p.m. the power went out…so I thought…it will come back at least by tomorrow…but mother nature had other plans…power was not reinstated for a week.
During this “blackout” period I counted my blessings…I had a gas stove and hot water, something my neighbors lacked plus I had a freezer full of food. My neighbors (without discussing or planning it) each “adopted” an elderly neighbor or a neighbor with little kids. I became the “neighborhood cook” and the house where people could take a warm shower and the spirit of community was alive and shining. Mother Nature had become the best community organizer.
What an experience! It made me slow down and realize that we have a great neighborhood on the 700 block of Ferry Street in Easton, and that community organizing is all about an issue that is important for all of us and not for a few.
Neighbors to whom I had never spoken were sharing what they had, and cleaning the sidewalks and streets to make sure that the leaves would not get caught in the drains, creating a worst problem. With flashlights and candles we sat to talk about our families, our culture and how lucky we were. We thanked God and came to the conclusion that what is important in life is friends and family; something we all knew but the rush and stress of our lives did not allow us time to acknowledge.
When the temperature dropped I became very worried (for the first time in my life) about the homeless that live under bridges, in park benches and other places without any heat and again I thanked God that I had a roof over my head and enough blankets to sleep warm. What a way to learn a lesson. But as I said, Mother Nature had bigger plans for us. Then I read about the crews from utility companies in other states that came to lend a hand and how they were sleeping in tents…wow! Here they come to help and they also have to suffer through cold temperatures.
I just have to assume that natural disasters are a way of teaching us to be humble, to be grateful, to be compassionate and to acknowledge that there are others that are suffering that we have to help during and after a disaster. For the homeless, Sandy was part of their routine of cold, dark nights. For the rest of us, it was a window into their lives. Let us remember those around us and keep them in mind this Holiday season. Let’s change their routine of cold, dark, hungry nights by supporting the local food banks, by supporting the local shelters and, if possible, by inviting a homeless family into our homes for a nice, warm home-cooked meal.
Don’t wait for another Sandy to strike us. Let us carry the lesson learned throughout our lives.