As I’m writing this, I have a kitchen full of Hurricane Irma escapees processing tomatoes in my kitchen. This includes Grandma, Poppy, my brother, and his wife. My brother’s three children are picking more tomatoes and bringing them back to the house. While I’m not happy for the reason they’re here (Hurricane Irma), I am very happy to have them here building memories and having fun as a family.
My parents’ house is outside of Orlando and will hopefully be fine. Even so, I encouraged them to evacuate early because there was no reason for them to stay. They’re retired and don’t need to worry about staying for a job. And their house is either going to be fine or it isn’t. Leaving Florida early meant they wouldn’t exacerbate the problems associated with so many people evacuating such a large area. They wouldn’t have to be part of the lines of people trying to purchase limited amounts of food or water or gas. They wouldn’t have to worry about power outages or medical emergencies. Thankfully, they decided to start getting ready to make the trip.
My brother, however, lives a mile from the coast in Southern Florida. We had encouraged him once before to leave during a prior hurricane and come stay with us. He had chosen not to because it is very difficult for him to leave. He has three children (two of whom are in school). Plus he and his wife run their own business – Organic Grown Direct – that delivers organic food directly to homes from Jupiter to Miami & all of Florida.
On Wednesday morning, I texted him: “You know that if you need to evacuate, you are welcome here!”
He texted back: “Ok, we’ll pop by for a real quick lunch!”
I thought he was joking and texted back: “You a funny guy. ;)”
Five hours later he texted me a photo of his family in our farm store with Jade and Colter and said: “Did we miss lunch?”
He’s always texting me photos of his family and their visits here and I thought it was an old photo. I had no idea he was here and joked back: “I’ve got leftovers.”
Five minutes later, Mason came back to the house and told me they were actually here!
It turns out he “knew” (his words) that I was going to offer him a place to stay. He had a bad feeling about this storm and put his family into their car Tuesday night (the night before I texted him) and started driving. He knew we would love the surprise and that we would welcome them with open arms.
They left with very little (there are 5 of them and not a big car). They made the decision to leave quickly and he drove through the night to get his family to safety before getting out of Florida became difficult. They hit relatively little traffic and didn’t have any worries about getting gas.
My parents (who were going to leave on Thursday) decided to move their departure up to Wednesday. They hit hours of bumper to bumper traffic, had concerns about refueling, and couldn’t locate a hotel room to stay overnight until they passed Atlanta. They arrived here yesterday (Thursday), road-weary and glad to finally be here.
My brother is a praying man and is praying hard. Not only is his house at risk, but so is his business. He has heard predictions that their area could be without power for a month. If that is the case, he will lose all his inventory (he has walk-in freezers with organic meats and seafood) and maybe even his business depending on if his organic Florida farmers are also wiped out.
We are joining him in prayer for not only his business, but for everyone in harm’s way from Hurricane Irma (just as we did for all those affected by Hurricane Harvey).
In addition to prayer, I talk a lot with my children about what they can do to help others. I teach them:
Be aware of others in need. The first step is to focus on others and not just yourself. We all have our daily stresses and struggles. Sometimes those stresses and struggles are greater than at other times. But it’s important to be aware that there are other people out there in need of assistance.
Be open to helping others. I can’t tell you how good it made me feel that my brother “knew” we were going to offer him shelter. I’ve always taught my children how important it is to keep your home open to people in need. We’ve done that whether we had a small home or a larger home. It’s not the size of your home that determines whether or not you can help. It’s the size of your heart. I have a heart to help others and I want my children to have the same open heart.
Offer that help. Many people are too independent to ask for help. You need to make them comfortable that you are willing to be there to assist if needed. This doesn’t happen suddenly in an emergency. This happens over years of making offers (that usually aren’t accepted). But keep making the offers – some day they will be needed and accepted.
Donate your time. Opening your home is a great way to help, but you can also donate your time. I’ve always wanted to take the older children to a disaster area to donate our time helping with cleanup. Right now because we have to milk our goats daily, it’s difficult to leave and donate our time. But honestly, I think that’s just an excuse. If I can make arrangements to leave and take a vacation, why can’t I make arrangements to donate time helping cleanup?
Carefully donate money if you are able. I’ve mentioned before that on the 2nd of March 2012, we had a devastating F4 tornado tear through our community that resulted in loss of life, many injuries, and extensive damage. There were many people who volunteered their time after the tornado. There were also various relief agencies that came in. Some of them left a sour taste in our mouth and I will never donate to them again. By far, the relief agency that made the biggest difference in people’s lives after the tornado was Samaritan’s Purse. If you are desiring to donate money to help, I can strongly recommend donating to Samaritan’s Purse as I have seen first hand the good work they do. While other relief agencies brought their aid (which was needed), Samaritan’s Purse not only brought aid, but found out what individual needs were and found a way to meet those needs. As with anything, do your due diligence before you send money to any person or organization saying they are going to help people in need. It’s a sad fact that there are many people profiting off the disasters of others.
Don’t forget. Helping others should be an ongoing event in your life. While natural disasters get media attention and make us focus on large groups of people who are in need of help, the truth is there are people who need assistance every day all around you. Keep your eyes open to these people and don’t forget when the media stops blaring about a specific disaster that people still need help. Bad things can happen to hard-working people. These people may need help to get back on their feet. Not everyone can afford good insurance. If my brother loses his business, we will help him however we can to start over. And there are thousands others just like him. They don’t need charity, they just need a helping hand.
Act wisely. There is a documentary called Poverty Inc* that I highly recommend watching yourself and with your children. It is very eye opening on how sometimes what we think we’re doing to help actually makes the situation worse. Make sure you’re acting wisely and considering the ramifications of your efforts to help.
I am beyond blessed. I have eight amazing (and healthy) children. I have an incredible husband. I have a beautiful farm. I have a successful business. I thank God every day for all my blessings and I never take any of them for granted.
Because I recognize that I am beyond blessed, it makes me want to be able to bless others.
What about you? Are you teaching your children to be aware of others in need and to help others in a responsible way?