The Big Little Things

I’ve been hearing about directed acts of kindness post-Sandy, and I have to say it really is encouraging.  While it is unfortunate that a community’s true stripes are most evident in times of distress, it’s nonetheless amazing to witness all the “little” efforts people make to help one another, especially as I’ve seen in the weeks since the storm.  We just got a comment from Reveler Ralph about a simple act he did to help a friend who was away during the storm, by checking on his house , sealing up broken doors, and turning off gas valves (smart — I don’t know that most people would think or know to do that).  Then I was checking out PS8’s website in preparation for their holiday craft fair this Saturday, when I saw this notice:

School Food is pleased to announce that all school lunches for all students will be free for the whole month of November. Thanks to a special federal waiver, all lunches are free to all New York City students for the whole month. While the City continues to recover from Sandy, we hope you will enjoy our delicious and nutritious lunches at no cost. As always, breakfast is free for all students daily

I especially like that the lunches are offered to all, and there’s no required showing of distress from the storm or other financial hardship to receive it.  I don’t currently have a school age child so I may not be up on what’s happening in that microcosm today, but it has made me happy to see groups of school kids with their school reps setting up mini-farmers markets offering either produce they’ve grown on their own school grounds or food donated from local farmers.  I’m especially grateful to see that breakfast is free for all students every day — sounds like someone’s been heeding the longstanding nutritionists’ advice that good health rests on a well fed morning.

Kudos to Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz, too, whatever you may think of him.  We get his complementary publication “Brooklyn!” which features short public interest pieces, and emphasizes small business efforts in our borough.  This most recent issue features “Sandy Samaritans,” including, among others Matthew Kraushar, a medical student who helped organize a pop-up medical clinic in a distressed area of Red Hook, which also reached out to the homebound to make sure they were okay.  Deborah Carter, president of the Tenants Association at Gravesend Houses helped evacuate tenants before Sandy, and afterward helped provide them with food, water and other supplies.  And, not reported in that feature in Markowitz’s “Brooklyn!,” but still significant, a grassroots group called People’s Relief, has organized to fill the void where government relief has been insufficient or, according to some, altogether absent.

Hooray for people, every one of us.  Please share your post-Sandy stories.  Let us know what you’ve seen that’s encouraging or discouraging, and everything in between.  Go ahead … gimme the dirt!

Oh, Sandy — And How to Be Ready for Her Sisters

It’s good to admit weakness.  Although we were lucky enough to not suffer any serious damage from the storm, it was an acute reminder to this household, and I’m sure others, that we were generally underprepared.  It’s so painfully easy to get wrapped up in the day to day and to put off doing things that will make your life easier when you have something more serious to worry about than your own busy-ness.  One of my own personal challenges is failing to approach things in digestible pieces.  I tend to try to tackle the whole mountain — in this case, investigating, reviewing, interviewing experts, before sitting down to stuff a safety-pack.  However, there’s no time like the present, when you’re not staring down the eye of a storm, to start preparing for the unexpected, even if that start is just making a list of what you might need.  It is okay to start small, and proceed small, and eventually you will have something very big accomplished.  (A writer/mentor/friend of mine, Crescent Dragonwagon, advocates relentless incrementalism, and I’m incrementally incorporating the notion.)

That in mind, I am finally ready to start getting serious about getting at least more adequately prepared than I felt about a month ago, as Superstorm Sandy was rolling in.  (It’s an awful feeling when the drain in your bathtub doesn’t work and all you’re hearing on the radio is how everyone should be filling their bathtubs to the brim in the event of pure catastrophe — the unknown is always the villain in these scenes).

There are many lists available online for how you should stock your home in the event of an emergency.  Feel free to share your thoughts and comments on this list, and to recommend others.  As for now, I’m keeping it simple with an old standard — FEMA.  According to FEMA, the following is what you need to stock your basic disaster supplies kit.  (If anyone can think of a better name for the “basic disaster supplies kit,” please share.  While I’m no Pollyanna, I still think the words we use help shape and create our own reality.  Maybe something along the lines of Adventure Pack for the Unexpected, or Welcome the Unknown Gift Basket….?)

Anyway, here’s the list…

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

I was calling my adult daughter the day before the storm hit, making sure she had good old-fashioned paper maps, atlas, etc., since her cell phone has been her fifth appendage since high school.  From my own experience on September 11, I can’t vouch fervently enough for value of a good radio.  I walked from Houston to 83rd that day, keeping quick pace with a stranger who gave me one ear bud to get the news on his handheld transistor radio.  Granted the news was all wrong, including reports of Chicago being bombed (seriously – and from a legit source), but that was in the cacophony of confusion so I don’t hold it against anyone — just one of those things no one seemed to remember after.  Still, access to any news is better than no news in such situations.

I skipped Black Friday — trying to do the “be local buy local” route — but I have a specific shopping list for the days and weeks ahead.  (relentless incrementalism, relentless incrementalism, relentless incrementalism)  It’s an early gift to my family, my home, and myself.  Will keep you posted.

That’s Great

It starts with an earthquake … eye of the hurricane …

Protect your plants.  Bring ’em indoors!  Hide your wife and children…this is the big one, Elizabeth!  Oh, wait.  What?  The sky is NOT falling?  Oh, okay.  Resume normal.  What’s that?  This IS normal … the new normal.