In the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy—Words Matter

My daughter-in-law, Arame, and I at a recent taping of Katie Couric’s new show.

We don’t often know how our words impact others. During times of stress, fear often colors what we say and what we write. We can be easily influenced by the panic of those around us.

We can also be uplifted. Somehow, I’ve been able to tune out the fear and tune in to the gratitude.

I wonder how the words of those in your life have impacted you lately? Here are two examples of words that have mattered to me.

Wisdom about the meaning of home

As I emailed a friend post-Sandy, I found myself writing, “We may need to consider your generous offer, once we know how long we’ll be homeless.” Homeless? Yes, I guess that’s what we are. I have never experienced this much uncertainty about my living situation. Even though we are incredibly grateful to have a home to return to, we have no idea when that will be possible.

Our homelessness was put in perspective when I read a wise and beautiful email from my daughter-in-law, Arame. Rather than trying to paraphrase Arame’s eloquent words, here they are as she wrote them (By the way her nickname for me, MJ, stands for Mommie Jamie):

As I read your new post MJ, tears just come down. And all I can think about is, what IS a home? You both may not have a house to go to, but your home is within all of the people who love you so much. I guess that’s why they say “Home is where the heart is”.  After moving so much, I have learned that my home isn’t where I unpack my STUFF, but the feeling you get when the one you love hugs you soo hard that you don’t want to let go. That’s when you say, “I’m home!” That’s what I wanted to say. I love you very much MJ.

Wisdom about what we really need

At around the same time I had a phone conversation with my son, Adam (who is Arame’s husband). Adam gently said, “You know, mom, you’re still getting to eat three meals a day, sleep in a bed, and keep warm.” In his usually thoughtful way Adam found the right words and gentle tone to remind me of how little one really needs to exist.

Adam served in the Peace Corps in the West African country of The Gambia, residing in a hut with no running water, no electricity, no plumbing, and a daily diet that barely changed. I struggled to survive these living conditions during my two-day visit in 2010, and marveled at how this became his happy home for two years.

As we talked the other day, Adam’s words took me back to his village existence, stripped to the bare necessities of food, clothing, and shelter, and how he found that was enough to create a foundation for a deeply meaningful life. Often the distractions of modern conveniences and our technology-laden lives take us away from what is truly important.

Arame and Adam’s words were the reminders I needed to put our plight into perspective. We don’t have access to our home or most of our belongings, but we do have our family and friends, and that’s where our home is now and perhaps, has always been.

Words can shape who we become

On Wednesday I was thinking about Arame and Adam’s life experiences, as I stood watching the young woman behind me in line, as we waited to board a bus that would take us to our storm-ravaged homes. Her eyes blinked back pools of tears. I wondered how this hurricane would change her. What words would help her to gain a broader perspective? I’d say that those words will matter greatly as they have the power to help her to grow, learn, and embrace an attitude of fear or one of gratitude. What would you say?

We are now 10 days post-Sandy and grateful to have made our temporary home at the Marriott Courtyard in Lincroft, NJ. We have a roof over our head, a hot shower, a more comfy bed than usual, and an internet connection. We are so appreciative of Marriott Courtyard’s awesome team who have gone way beyond expectations by sleeping on site, scrounging food for their guests, and responding to our needs with a kindness (and sense of humor) that warms our hearts. Here’s a huge thank you to their entire team, led by:

  • Rene: Operations Manager
  • Stephanie: Operations Supervisor
  • Amanda and Bill: Bistro
  • Nicole, Savdiya, and Kathleen: Front Desk
  • Harry: Engineer

8 thoughts on “In the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy—Words Matter

    • Sharon, Thanks for posting that video! It’s a riot and I needed a good laugh about now. I guess our challenge will be to not replace the damaged stuff with more stuff!

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