By all accounts, Hurricane Matthew was a monster storm, wreaking havoc throughout the Caribbean and the entire southeastern coast of the U.S. Killing hundreds, displacing millions, and flooding the coastlines of Florida, Georgia the Carolinas, and Virginia, Matthew left death and devastation in its path.
Having grown up in central Florida, I’m no stranger to hurricanes, and have endured many, including the Category 4 storm, Donna, which leveled Orlando in 1960. Dad let my brother and me leave the safety of our inner hallway to step outside with him as the eye passed over us. Eerily, the sky was blue, the wind and rain were gone, and the noise of the storm was absent. The calm was brief, however as the western wall approached, and we retreated to the relative safety of our cinder block home.
Throughout the long night, even the raging storm couldn’t drown out the sickening sound of pine trees snapping and crashing to the ground. Although our home suffered little damage, many of our neighbors were less fortunate. A soggy dawn presented us with the stark reality that trees and downed power lines blanketed our little community.
Interestingly, hurricane Donna brought out the very best of mankind. Neighbors helped neighbors. Men armed with chainsaws cleared trees from roads and houses, while others patched damaged roofs with tarps secured by rope. Many of the women prepared sandwiches and drinks for the workers, while others cared for small children. It was a remarkable spirit of selflessness and servitude that left a strong and lasting impression upon me at the youthful age of nine.
My wife and I were privileged to open our home to relatives and their friends during Matthew, as they sought refuge from their coastal homes near Daytona Beach. We shared their joy of being safe and together, while we suffered with them as they tracked the storm and feared for all they’d left behind. Remarkably, some thirty-six hours later, they were able to return home to minimal damage.
It seems entirely appropriate during this season of Thanksgiving, to reflect upon our many blessings. Recently we were reminded that property and possessions aren’t nearly as important as the safety and well-being of our family, friends, and loved ones. You see, it all became quite clear, after the storm…
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“Help thy brother’s boat across and lo! Thine own has reached the shore.”