I was born and raised in New York City. In Manhattan, to be precise. It is where I did all the charming and crazy things that kids, teenagers and young adults do. The place from which I have frequently fled to travel to far-flung corners of the world, but also the place to which I always return, desperate for a dose of family, friendship and the kind of in-your-face generosity of culture that only New York can give. Most recently I came back with a non-native wife and two foreign-born children. I not-so-secretly hope that the latter discover the same space for doing all the charming and crazy things that kids do, made all the richer by the tumult of this city.
But there are limits to tumult. What transpired a few days ago in New York City, as well as Long Island and along the Jersey Shore (and elsewhere, of course), put to a test everyone’s tolerance for tumult. (See the eye-opening video below of cyclists who documented their ride through downtown Manhattan for several hours during the storm.)
Brewed in a deadly pot of maelstrom, Hurricane Sandy turned tumult into bedlam. And though the worst of the winds have blown themselves out, the destruction wrought remains. If anything, it seems to be getting worse as the ramifications sink into the heaps of displaced sand and mud, as the weather turns cold, as people grow impatient with life without electricity, water, heat and, in some cases, food or home.
Around NYC, I keep hearing and pondering the oft-repeated phrase “People without power.” For the last few days it has been with specific reference to people with no electricity, but given the storm devastation, the frustrations in the face of emergency-response bureaucracy and the glimmerings of fires that will burn bright once “adverse” insurance determinations start rolling in, “people without power” obviously has extended meaning. We can then add to that the imminent US Election Day, the results of which are sure to leave one half of all Americans feeling like their voices don’t matter.
Of course, while the US media are focused largely on domestic issues, let’s not forget the headline news in Syria, the political instability elsewhere in the Middle East, the economic and social upheaval in Europe, the strife all across Africa, the turmoil… everywhere.
People without power, indeed.
No, these are not easy times in many places. So if you’ve got the spirit and wherewithal to help, please do. Donate time to your local community. Offer a shower or shelter to a friend. Or friend of a friend. Think of anyone anywhere who has less than you do. Think how, like those communities in and around my home town, people in distress today may have given generously yesterday. Think how you would hope they respond to your appeals in times of need.
Let’s give travellers’ legs to the Mark Twain adage that “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
What comes around goes around. And if you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably been around or dream of it. So whether or not we actually leave the confines of our communities these days, let’s all give it (whatever you have to give) around. Generously. (If you’re not sure where to make a donation, start here.)