Having spent most of my life in Michigan, I am used to extreme weather and fierce snowstorms. But now that I am a Floridian, I have learned about the power of a hurricane. The latest storm, named Hurricane Irma, blasted the Caribbean Islands as well as the entire state of Florida. I was in East Texas visiting my daughter when reports to evacuate were posted. My flight was canceled so I spent another week with my daughter’s family, thankful to be in a safe place. As people boarded up their homes, found safer places to stay, and tried to leave the state, I heard many stories of desperation. You see it’s not as easy as “just leave.” A gas shortage quickly spread through the state as people tried to fill their tanks. Even on a full tank, many could not drive far enough to get out of harm’s way. Flights were either overbooked or canceled, so many had to stay and pray.
Here is what Irma taught me: When time are tough, people are tougher. And when people are in survival mode, they realize what matters. I had mentally prepared myself to lose my home or at least part of it. Non of my family members were in Florida, so I knew I could go on living, even if my material possession were gone.
I also learned that these events bring out the good in people. I heard the story of a man who was about to buy the last generator at Home Depot. He saw a young woman crying and asked what was wrong. She said she had a baby who had medical needs and if they lost power, she would have to take her baby to the hospital. The man decided that she needed the generator more than he did, so he let her buy it instead.
I heard many stories of people in safer homes inviting others to stay with them. One young mom hosted another mom with five children. Volunteers from many churches became the hands and feet of Jesus, leaving their own concerns behind and helping those who have limited resources. People from our church brought food, water, and baby supplies into lower income communities.
After Irma blew through the state, the aftermath continued to cause difficult circumstances. Some people were without power for over a week. Temps were in the 90s with 100 percent humidity. Gas stations were still short on gas and grocery stores were out of food.
I am now back in Florida where life is almost back to normal. But the kindness continues. On Saturday I was the 3rd person in line at the grocery store. The woman who was checking out did not have enough cash to pay for all of her groceries, and her credit card was denied. She took a few items out of her cart until the total was an amount she could pay for. The woman who was behind her in line (and just in ahead of me) spoke up. She told the cashier to put the items on her tab and let the woman have them. Tears pooled in the eyes of the cashier, the woman who couldn’t pay, and my own eyes.
I’ve learned that hurricanes have power to destroy, but they also have power to bring out the best in people. Irma taught me a lot about life. And I’m happy to say that she didn’t touch my house.
I hope all my Florida friends are safe and doing well.