1. It’s so odd how we superimpose modern technology on our memories. A coworker and I were discussing our Katrina stories earlier this week, and we kept imagining that we reconnected with people via Facebook except that, really, Facebook then was in its infancy – little more than a list of your favorite movie quotes and your favorite books and your choice of one profile picture. It was not a great way to communicate or find information. I also have a false memory of texting people in the midst of the storm – although I had a crappy flip-phone and no texting plan. I think I made most of my post-storm connections back in 2005 via blogs, emails, and listservs, but a lot of the details are lost to time and stress.
- Every one of those silly personality quizzes that I’ve taken in tween magazines and on now-defunct websites and on Buzzfeed since about 1989 has said the same thing: “You’re a helper.” My default mode in times of grief or trauma is action, activity. And so after Katrina, one of the main things I did was help everyone in my family apply for their $2,000 FEMA checks and for Red Cross assistance. It had an immediate impact on their lives, and it made me feel less powerless
One thing to remember is that not everyone wants or needs the same kind of help.
When my friends have been sick or otherwise in need of help, if they have requested meals, I have brought them meals.
When I am in need of help, however, the last thing I want is food. I have tremendous anxiety around food and I’m a fairly picky eater (not in the sense of not eating green vegetables or something … more that as far back as second grade, I can remember not wanting to eat cookies that weren’t from a bakery because I was convinced I could “taste the way the houses where they were baked smell”). So no matter how good your intentions are, if you bring me food, it won’t be particularly helpful to me.
This makes me sound like an ungrateful asshole, and I’m not; I promise.
My point – which I’m making really clumsily right now – is that in order to be truly helpful to someone in need, there is no “one size fits all” approach. What someone finds helpful is going to vary person to person.
If you know people in Texas well enough to know what would be helpful for them, do it.
That said, probably the most helpful thing to do right now, if you can’t physically be in Texas, is to give money. Donating things right now is just going to create clutter and logistical issues.
- I hate this time of year. I am grieving for Texas, reliving Katrina, and obsessively tracking Irma. I’ve heard from friends and family members that the normal PTSD that vaguely accompanies every Katrina anniversary and/or every flooding event is compounded this year. Texas needs our help, but we need to remember to take care of ourselves, too. I wasn’t even here for Katrina, and I still burst into sudden and unexpected tears on two separate occasions on Tuesday, the actual 12th anniversary. You don’t need to watch round-the-clock disaster footage to have compassion, so if you find the news is spiking your blood pressure, turn it off and take a break – and maybe try to do something proactive if you feel up to it. (Or just stress-eat some ice cream if that’s what works for you. The goal is self-care in whatever form it takes.)
- My husband made this point in his blog yesterday, and I’d just like to echo it here: Don’t engage with people who aren’t being supportive. I lost friendships after Katrina with people who tried to reason with me that the city shouldn’t be rebuilt. I miss none of those people. If you’re yelling about flood plains while people are suffering, you’re not someone I want in my life.
And now it’s officially September, which means just 91 more days of hurricane season.
I can’t wait.