When Somebody Does Something

Last night I wrote an 800-word post about my experience volunteering in Far Rockaway last weekend with Occupy Sandy. It was about my frustrations with the organization, the horrible and wonderful things my friends and I experienced and witnessed. It offered a lot of problems and some possible solutions to what I’ve noticed in the past two weeks since the storm. I hoped it offered some insight and a different story than all of the photos and status about people volunteering posted on social media patting themselves on the back.

But just as I hit save to go to bed, some sort of internet glitch ate it. It’s gone. Maybe I’ll re-write it, but I don’t think so.

The thing gist of the post, the bottom line to everything that millions of people are feeling right now is that it’s just not enough. There’s just soo much suffering, and now more than ever we live in two distinct cities, the line of the haves and the have nots has never been so clear. And while it has been draw as it always is somewhat along the lines of race and money, this time it is also so much more random.

The fact that we’ve managed to escape this disaster unscathed will forever leave a mark on my heart. I been unlucky before, I’ll be unlucky again, but for this and so many other reasons, I am so very lucky.

So I’ll skip the parts of the post that I had written about the cruel things we heard the firefighters say about the struggling residents, I’ll gloss over the looted buildings and piles of ruined homes, I give only brief lip-service to the disorganization of the Occupy movement and the waste and self-interest of the church we ended up at, and I’ll skip to the part where my friends and I got so fed up with it all that we took matters into our own hands.

We took as much food and supplies as the car would hold and went block by block knocking on doors of people who had been offered no help by all of the organizations set up nearby them that afternoon. It was an incredibly small thing. So many people that done such big heroic acts these past to weeks, so many people are devoting endless hours to important rebuilding and outreach work. I just spent a day shoveling mud and handing out sandwiches, I deserve no pat on the back.

But in the relief in the voices on on the faces of people who really needed a hat or coat or a peanut butter sandwich I saw such a beautiful part of humanity. Neighbors and strangers who took no more than they needed, told us of others that needed help (and in the case of the elderly man who lent us his flashlight so we could navigate the pitch black senior center–led us there).

Who is to say how you would act given those extreme circumstances–we all hope that we’ll never have to find out. But every person I encountered who had to endure things I hope I never have to, was grateful and gracious, something I don’t know if I could be given that plight.

I’m not fooling myself to believe that I did anything of significance last weekend. But the guilt and frustration that I’ve been feeling ever since the storm–the feeling like I don’t know what to do and everything I try feels like it’s not enough–was gone for those few hours. Those hours that we got so fed up that somebody wasn’t doing what needed to be done, and we became those somebodies.

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