After one surprise week off from school, Roan is back learning and playing with his friends. Shep + Smitty are taking a nap wrapped up in their favorite blankets with their favorite stuffed animals standing guard. I’m sitting in my super warm home, steam making my radiator squeak with winter noises, and have to squint from the amazing sunlight pouring through my back windows. There is a computer in my lap, which is plugged into a wall that makes it turn on. The water in my sink pours both hot and cold. The clothes in my closet are mostly clean, and all the books and toys in the boys’ rooms are just sitting around in their perfect condition, save a few pages glued together with grape jelly. I know what we’re having for dinner tonight, and that it’s sitting in my kitchen being kept at the correct temperature in my refrigerator until it’s ready to be cooked later tonight, on our stove, which also works.
My family will sit at our own table, together in our own space. Safe. And later the boys will take baths, with an unending supply of warm soapy yummy-smelling water, bubbles and toys surrounding them. They have their choices of pajamas, with no shortage of dinosaur themes, superhero themes, color block patterns, or simple solids. Really, whatever floats their boat at the time, they can have. Books will be read, TV shows will be watched, and at the end of the day we will all sink into pillows that are ours, fluffed exactly as we like them and with the doors locked and cozy down comforters pulled over our ears; this family will all dream of flying or popcorn or bunnies or toys being taken away. None of us need to worry. Our needs are met.
It has been made crystal clear to me this past week that each of these things – the thousands of things everyday that are normal to us, that we think we deserve or have rights to – can just simply be taken away. It doesn’t matter if you’re a hard worker, honest, mean, nice, healthy or a glutton. They can disappear, and then what?
I have been inspired by the amazing community of Brooklyn after Hurricane Sandy. Every day there has been drive after drive to collect donations or find labor to help all the people who have lost their homes and businesses. I have to admit that I have felt absolutely overwhelmed, and then helpless. I have things to give, I have time to help, I have a few dollars to donate. But I’ve not really known where to go. Each place – the Red Hook Initiative, the Red Cross, the church on the corner, or the non-profit across the street – they all seem like they need help. I wonder if other people feel like this – that there’s just too much need, and what little I have to give isn’t going to help enough.
I suppose there are different styles of giving, and of being able to help. I have been in awe of my two friends, Jennifer Perillo and Ilana Levine who seem like they are built for this type of circumstance. (Click here for an excellent entry by Jennifer detailing ways to help – from anywhere.) They have organized coat, blanket and food drives. They have organized lists of places to help. They seem constant in their efforts. If I were to name everyone I’ve seen who has just jumped in – this would be an entry of hundreds of names. My friends and neighbors are truly inspirational.
I am fortunate though, that an email found its way to me, detailing the needs of one family. And that is how I am built to help. With just a few texts my closest friends of course came through and then some. We’ve been able to pull together enough clothes, shoes, books, toys and legos (of course!) for this family to get through the winter at least. Now, if only one of us could pull a new apartment out of the air, we’d feel totally successful. Still, sometimes good enough has to be good enough.
I am hugely grateful for the electricity that runs through my home, uninterrupted. I am grateful for the water and warmth, and the safety that the four walls and roof of our Brooklyn home have provided for us. I do wish I could share more of it. I wish I could take this sense of safety and warmth, this comfort and wrap it up and hand it out. The sadness I feel for my neighbors who are suffering, for people I don’t know who are suffering – it probably doesn’t help anyone. But I feel it, and hang on just a little tighter to my boys when I hug them goodnight. These basic things – health, beds, blankets, safety, home – these are truly the most luxurious things we can have in life. All the other bells and whistles just seem to be of no consequence at all.