In 2000 I was working for Sun Microsystems as a systems administrator. As part of a project aimed at outsourcing the systems administration of their field support and sales offices to AT&T, I had the opportunity to travel to the East Coast to train the AT&T systems administrators how to do our jobs. One of those offices was on the 25th and 26th floors of Tower 2 in the World Trade Center. During that time, it was good to be home. I made a lot of new friends and the project gave me time to spend with my grandparents and other extended family members.
One year later, my wife and I went on vacation to the Dominican Republic. My first day back to work was Sept 11, 2001. When the reality of the events of that day set in, I was restless and couldn’t sit still worrying about my friends and family in NY. Even though I had just come back from vacation, fortunately I was working for the same company that saw value in sending me back to help with the recovery efforts. On Sept 17, 2001, I was on plane back to NY, compliments of the company I worked for.
As you know, when you come back from vacation, you don’t have any more money because you spent it all frivolously. Had it not been for my job, and Sun Microsystems, I would not have been able to directly contribute anything to ease the suffering or comfort those that I knew personally.
Now, before I continue, let me say with absolute clarity that I love the Red Cross and organizations like it who provide aid and comfort to those who need it most in times of disaster. It is NOT my intention to discourage giving to those organizations who desperately need our support, so they can in turn provide support to those who have been displaced by some catastrophe. I donate to the Red Cross Often and will continue to do so.
Hurricane Sandy came right after I returned from another vacation – an awesome 7 day cruise to the Caribbean. Grand Total of all expenses came to around $5000 including airfare and all the money we spent. The good news, since my wife and I live a cash lifestyle, we’re not in any debt from our vacation. The bad news, I don’t have a job that needs me to go anywhere outside of my immediate area. More bad news… since I spent all my money, I don’t have much left to donate AND this storm occurred right after the 1st of the month, which is when my $2300/mo rent is due.
Once again I was restless, wanting so bad to travel back into the worst of the mess to help with clean up and recovery. While Sept 11 was tragic, it was one building in the City. Hurricane Sandy was a 400 mile wide storm! People I care about were literally treading water! This time, however, I was grounded by finances and circumstances. So how could I help? I didn’t want to just throw money at the Red Cross. Certainly any donation would have helped someone, somewhere. But I wanted an assurance that my money would not only be used for Hurricane Sandy relief, but also to help people that I know personally who were displaced or suffering because of this tragic storm. I wanted my small donation to directly help people that I know personally.
While keeping track of events through social media, I learned of a friend (who’s name I’ll leave anonymous), who was offering their home to shower, charge electronic devices and generally sacrifice their own personal comforts to help those around them. So I called this friend and arranged to send money directly through paypal. I was pleased to see how my friend purchased so much stuff for my small donation. The small dollars I sent were really stretched to buy the maximum amount of supplies that small amount of money could buy. And I know the people who receive those things will be very grateful for the support.
When major catastrophe strikes, people often tend to want to show a strong face against the adversity. They don’t want to accept “charity” from friends and family because they don’t want to seem weak, dependent or incapable of fending for themselves. Whether or not you believe the increasing intensity of seasonal disasters is man-made, a natural cycle or combination of both, things *ARE* getting worse and they *WILL CONTINUE* to get worse. When it happens in your neighborhood and to your family, be ready to accept the assistance of your friends and family. Don’t deny them their chance to directly help and feel useful. Learn the strength of saying “Thank you” and reaching back to those who are reaching out.
I leave you with a U2 Song… “Sometimes You Can’t Make it On Your Own”