LESSONS FROM THE HURRICANES
Dorian, 2019: The Transition from Help-er to Help-ee
"We all wish to reach a ripe old age, but none of us are prepared to admit that we are already there." Francisco de Quevedo
Central Florida dodged a big bullet recently with Hurricane Dorian. The picture above shows one of the earlier tracks projecting the storm would come right over the top of Orlando. Forecasts like that got our attention in a hurry!
Hurricane preparation can sometimes be quirky. When you get word that you're a likely target, it's important to start the hunkering-down process right away. If you've never lived in a hurricane zone, here are the key points.
One of the most important steps is to move everything from porches, patios, and outside the house into the garage - or even into the house itself - in order to prevent your outdoor furnishings from becoming deadly missiles in the storm. I had to chuckle at this photo of one Florida resident's kitchen. I can imagine a Smart Car being tossed around by heavy hurricane winds, like a left-over lawn chair. At times like this, I'm glad I drive a GMC Yukon.
The next step is to board up windows and doors to keep wind and rain from penetrating the house. Then you need to deploy sandbags to keep water out in case of local flooding.
The fourth step is one of the most important: gather a bunch of bottled water and a heaping supply of non-perishable food in case the electricity goes out for several days. It's especially vital to have lots of "hurricane snacks." That's Florida-talk for junk food, chosen to help you feel better while you're trapped in the house when the winds blow and the rain comes sideways.
This time, we lucked out and the storm missed us, meaning that most of our preparations weren't needed after all. The northern Bahamas, unfortunately, weren't so lucky. The storm that was supposed to hit us head-on instead chewed up the Bahamas and then turned right, striking Florida with only a glancing blow. Below is a satellite image showing what eventually happened.
Over the years I've learned that hurricane preparation is never wasted, even if the storm turns away. It's good training for the next one, which may be the big one. In addition, the preparation process itself creates a more vigilant and neighborly neighborhood, as we turn our concerns to those around us who may need help getting ready.
However, this time something unusual and unexpected happened at the Farnsworth house during hurricane preparation, something I'm not sure I was ready to acknowledge. This time, I passed a coming-of-age milestone.
In the 21 years since we moved to Central Florida, I've always secured my own residence at hurricane prep time and then gone in search of neighbors, friends, and fellow parishioners who needed help getting ready. That's not being a hero; that's just what one does in advance of a hurricane. But this time, before I could even do so much as buy a few cases of bottled water, I had swarms of neighbors, friends, and folks from church knocking on our door or sending us texts or meeting us at the sandbag-filling station and offering to help us get ready.
I might have been offended. What, do I really look that old? Is my hair really almost white? Is it because I push Marcie in a wheelchair whenever we go out? Are we now "the senior couple down the street," the ones who need help?
The truth is, it didn't take me long to swallow my pride and recognize that, yes indeed, we could use some help this time around. Those sandbags and that patio furniture had somehow gotten a lot heavier since the last big storm. Marcie's bottle trees and flower pots on the lanai had become much harder to move inside. She was no longer able to help me move tables, and my back was starting to give out. The sheets of plywood to cover the front door were now nearly impossible to move by myself.
So I said "yes" to their thoughtful offers of assistance, and I'm so glad I did. Marcie and I - and my suddenly-older back - say thanks to all of you who lent a hand with filling sandbags and loading them in my car. We're so grateful to those who came over and helped move all the outside stuff inside, and assisted with the plywood. Chris, Amber, Joseph, Callum, Sarah, Karin, Norah, and Evan, you were a God-sent blessing, and I am moved to tears to think about your kindness and generosity.
Looking back at the last 21 years in Central Florida, when we regularly helped friends and neighbors get their homes ready for hurricanes, and then after the storms when we assisted strangers to clean up the debris and destruction, sometimes in distant locations, we had no other motive except to be kind and neighborly. But what a sweet discovery to learn personally that, with the passage of time, what goes around does indeed come around. This time, we were the beneficiaries of loving attention and tender mercy.
Now, with added perspective on the cycle of giving and receiving, I am coming to understand that sometimes it is our season to give and at other times, it is our turn to receive. With advancing age and reduced physical strength, I am deeply touched to be surrounded by kind and loving friends who will come to our aid just as we had come to others' assistance all those years.