What I Learned From a Week Without Power

I write this post hesitantly.  There’s this little voice that feels guilty even reflecting on “blessings” when so many of my closest friends are still without power, heat and running water. 

Hurricane Sandy came and went but left her mark, that she did.

There is also a sense of quick relief, maybe too quick, because our “normal lifestyle” has been restored and is now almost like it was prior to the hurricane.  Our minds are so well trained to seek pleasure that I can feel the pain of last week drifting away.  I want to put it out of my mind and download some dumb computer game while turning on all of the lights in my house and streaming live video on my iPad.

But I also don’t want to forget.  Not at all.

I don’t want to forget last week.  I don’t want to because a part of me feels guilty because of what has been restored to my own family.  Lights.  Heat.  Hot water.  Internet.  More importantly, I don’t want to forget because, for one small stretch of life, I could relate to the poor.  We were poor in heat, lights, food, comfort, and leisure.

It didn't feel good.

On the other hand, we were rich at the same exact time.  We were wealthy in how much more we spoke with our neighbors. We were rich in how we tried to encourage each other when one of us felt like complaining.  We were rich in the time that it took to prepare meals.  With the microwave out of commission, simple meals of bread and soup came alive thanks to the help of a side burner on the bbq grille.  

For five long days, we were rich while at the same time being poor.

I kept a candle lit tonight after dinner.  My eight year old reminded me that our power was back and we didn’t need the candles any more.  I told him that I didn’t want to forget last week.  Innocently and honestly, he said, “I don’t want to remember last week at all!  It was horrible.”  He is, of course, very right.  One would never choose to be out of power for a week.  Why would you?

Suffering is like that.  It repels and attracts at the same time. We walk by homeless people and simultaneously want to stare and look away.  Can you relate to that?  For many thousands of people in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey after the hurricane, the response is the same.  Some just want to move on and forget that it all happened, like my eight year old.  Others will have to live with the devastation for months or years to come.  

So what did I learn from a week without power?  First, what I missed the most:

1. The ability to communicate with my friends and colleagues.

2. Hot coffee at any time of the day.

3. High speed internet.

4. Heat and afternoon lighting.

5. The ability to charge my devices.

6. Podcast listening during my commute.

What didn’t I miss?  (And some of these may surprise you!)

1. Refrigeration.

2. TV.

3. All Saints Day.  It’s not that I don’t like All Saints Day, I do.  It’s rather that I was so consumed with getting my family through the day that we had forgotten all about All Saints.  

What have I learned through all of this?  

1. Take nothing for granted.  Not your family or a good night’s sleep or a warm meal.  It could all go away in the blink of an eye so cherish it, hold it close to you and thank God for whatever you have.

2. Help those that you can.  I can’t cook my way out of a paper bag but I can brew coffee.  Today I made a pot of coffee for someone without power and poured it into a carafe.  When I gave it to my friend, she could only give back a hug which was way better than what I had to offer.

3. Put more stock into routines.  They bring momentum which brings success.  During a time of disaster, they also bring order, calm and a sense of stability. Get really good at them because they matter a whole lot. 

4. Try not to forget.  Whether you light a candle, frame a photo or keep a quote in your wallet or purse, remembering tragedy is very, very important.  It keeps you humble and helps to avoid careless waste.


I’d love to hear your insights from last week’s Hurricane event.  How are you doing and what are you learning?

Photo courtesy of AB