16 November 2012

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, gratitude is a word that we should consider each and every day

Giving Thanks...

Gratitude - a word that we should consider each and every day, but yet can be so easily forgotten in the hecticness of life. Each year as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, most of us do take some time to reflect and give thanks for the many blessings in our lives, both great and small. This year, living in Manhattan in the wake of hurricane Sandy, it is quite easy for me to be in a state of gratitude. After being sans electricity and heat for almost a week, and witnessing firsthand the devastation and tremendous loss that this storm has inflicted, I am grateful to be able to power up my computer to write this blog, to feel the warmth of heat in my apartment, and to be able to turn on a light as the sun goes down here in New York City.

I am sure you have all seen the epic tragedy post Sandy - I was not privy to much of it, since I was without cable during the first week of news coverage. And I suspect that what I experienced post Sandy was much different than what was broadcast on television. Amidst the devastation, I witnessed tremendous acts of kindness, generosity and compassion - and that is the side of Sandy that I would like to share with you.

The following is my Thanksgiving gift to you - a sampling of the goodness of the human spirit that I witnessed in the wake of catastrophe:

  • Men and women of the National Guard who made me feel safe and protected standing ground 24/7 just outside my door at the 69th Regiment Armory, offering me friendly conversation (even sharing family photos), glow sticks to light my apartment, and apologies for the ‘chaos and noise’ outside my door...(Little did they know that my NYC street was actually MUCH quieter than usual that week)!

  • A young employee at a hardware store in the upper west side who was genuinely apologetic when he delivered me the sad news that they were all sold out of flashlights and battery powered lanterns. He said he was without power in his home too, but he had one extra flashlight of his own...and he offered it to me.
  • The generosity of all the NYC Sportclubs who opened their doors to anyone who was in need of a warm shower, a place to charge their phone, or even a mood-lifting sweat session.
  • The free public transportation offered by NYC for the first 2 days after the subway system was partially restored, allowing people to travel by bus and subway to areas of power and warmth to get necessities not available in their powerless and vacant neighborhoods.
  • The delicious little restaurant on my street, Madras Mahal, who offered free, hot food to anyone who noticed their sign and wandered into the candle lit restaurant. They did this for 4 days straight.
  • The multitude of businesses - who were fortunate to be with electricity- that allowed those without to charge up their electronics, even if it meant cell phones hanging from the ceiling in a restaurant, or power strips taking up table space. I even saw a cafe that was running a generator outside just for passerby's to use for free.
  • The elderly patient of mine who offered food to me (and every other medical clinician that came into his home that week) since he knew I was without power.
  • The multitude of runners, who in spite of the last minute marathon cancellation, ran in solidarity in Central Park, and were cheerful and pleasant, acknowledging that their loss of the marathon was trivial compared to those affected by the storm. Many of these runners had been training for 6 months to a year, traveled far and wide, and spent a significant amount of money to prepare for this event that never happened. The day of the race I encountered many runners in the city who had smiles on their faces, and I even saw a few out in the Rockaways that very day, who drove there with shovels, tools and work clothes, ready to use their energy to lend a helping hand wherever needed.
  • The overwhelming amount of donations, and hundreds of volunteers who showed up to help in any way possible at all the volunteer events I took part in. Many times there were almost too many volunteers. Amazing...
  • The countless messages and phone calls I received from family and friends, some of whom I hadn’t spoken with in years, making sure I was safe and sound.
  • The beautiful senior couple who lived at an apartment that was sadly without heat or power for 2 weeks. They gifted me a beautiful book simply for running a few errands for them. They were without heat or power, had no way to contact their loved ones, and were trapped in their building due to a non-working elevator, yet when I left that day, they said it was a 'Red Letter Day'... Now that's perspective!
  • My coworkers I am in awe of, who made heroic efforts walking across the Brooklyn Bridge in the rain, climbing up 20+ flights of stairs in pitch black, and waiting 3-4 hours just to catch a bus...all to get to their patients in need.
  • The cab driver who drove me back to my cold, dark neighborhood after an evening of venturing into the 'land of power' for a warm dinner with a friend. Upon seeing me exit onto my deserted street, he told me to be safe, kindly asked if I had a flashlight, and offered me his own.
  • My friend from Australia who had been waiting for months to take her US road test to allow her to drive in America. After confirming her reservation, leaving the house at 6am, renting a car, driving into Brooklyn and waiting almost 3 hours, she was finally told the test was cancelled due to the storm. Yet as we drove back into Manhattan and the sun glistened over the city skyline, instead of complaining she commented on the beauty of the morning view... "When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change..."
  • The jovial train operator who - the day the 4-5-6 line was finally running into lower Manhattan- proudly announced as we neared Grand Central Station. "Ladies and gentlemen I don't have to chase you off the train at Grand Central today! Service is restored. Thank you for your patience and understanding in this crisis. I hope you all stay safe". The subway cart erupted in cheers...
I love this... 'SERVICE' is crossed out and replaced with 'HOPE'
I think I will forever remember something an elderly woman in a cold, dark apartment said to me when I knocked on her to door to offer her batteries and candles: "Just when you think it’s getting really bad, and you start to get angry, that’s when someone like you shows up at the door."

No matter how difficult things may seem, there’s always a light on the other side of the door... we just need to have patience, and the faith to open it...

Lori Zito | @LoriZito
Lori is an animal-loving, life-loving vegan who is passionate about spreading the message of better health through a vegan diet. She works as a certified holistic health and nutrition coach, a yoga instructor, and a physical therapist. Learn more at her website Live In The Balance and follow her on Facebook.

Photo credit: Lori Zito