After hurricane, giving starts close to home |

After hurricane, giving starts close to home

Laura Whittemore

Last Friday, I received an e-mail from my friend Lisa, whose family’s home is in New Orleans – or, was in New Orleans. Lisa wrote that her parents, sister Cara, and Cara’s three children, ages 2, 4 and 8, escaped when the first warning of evacuation came for Hurricane Katrina. They piled into their van with whatever clothes and important papers they could gather up on such short notice. Relieved and happy, Lisa welcomed six members of her family into her small three-bedroom home in Dallas.Cara’s husband, a policeman, remained behind to help keep the peace. He was able to find a working land line to call and say that he was alive and sleeping in his police cruiser. He said he was working 12-hour shifts, and that the devastation was beyond belief.Still in shock from the trauma of leaving their home, and with no hope of returning, Cara is already looking for a job in Dallas. Assured of temporary housing in Lisa’s home, she feels responsible for supporting her three children since her husband, Karl, who is on the city payroll, has no idea when he’ll get paid or where his salary will come from. Although Lisa’s parents won’t be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary at the Commander’s Palace in October, they are thankful for the safety and comfort of a familiar home. They worry but are very proud of Karl, the policeman, husband and father, who felt it his duty to stay behind in the increasingly desperate situation of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.This is just one example of a displaced family going through the efforts they need to survive. My heart goes out to them because I feel connected through friendship. I feel compelled to help in some way. The media has made it known that there are agencies, like the Red Cross and Salvation Army, ready to accept donations. That is an option, but in this case, I feel there is something more that I can do.After reading the e-mail from my friend Lisa, I feel that my financial and emotional support would be better served if I sent it directly to them. I’m sure others have thought of this, but it just dawned on me that if each of us starts giving aid close to home or within the immediate circle of friends and family, just think of the impact we would make. Taking into consideration the six degrees of connection in the world, giving financial and emotional support to one of those connections could possibly benefit exponentially. It could be like a laser beam of assistance bypassing the administrative red tape of charitable organizations. Can you imagine being on the receiving end and knowing that somebody out there cares? It’s like another extended family. I’m sure there are those who are not willing to accept charity because of their pride, or maybe for fear of not being able to repay. When you think about it, no matter how far away disaster strikes, we are all affected in some way. Perhaps the time has come for all of us to learn to give and receive graciously.I just recently spoke to Lisa and expressed my concern for her and her family, and asked how I could help. Her reaction was of surprise and delight that someone so far away would want to help financially. She said that her neighbors and friends brought by clothing and toys for the kids. One friend was able to loan Cara a car to use for a couple of weeks. In answer to my offer, Lisa said her family would greatly appreciate gift certificates from the local grocery store, Wal-Mart, Target, and others. Now that makes sense to me. She then went on to ask if I would have time to talk later. Even though she is immensely grateful her family is safe, she personally needs a friend to help her cope with this lifestyle change of inheriting an instant family from Hurricane Katrina. She said it would be helpful to brainstorm ideas with someone outside the disaster zone.The unknowing of the future can be the undoing of many people. Lives, shaken into fragile pieces trying to hold together, can erode the emotional stamina of a family. Children’s lives are at stake here. This new scenario has the potential to leave unfathomable psychological scars for the youngest involuntary participants. And yet, this abrupt relocation could lead to new possibilities and wonderful childhood memories created by the reunion of these three generations living in close proximity.Watching the coverage of Hurricane Katrina and receiving a call for help from a friend in need caused me to rethink my desire to help. Here’s an opportunity for focused acts of kindness, which seems to fit into my plan. What’s your plan?Laura Whittemore is a personal life coach in Carbondale. She can be reached at

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