Hurricane Michael – The Surprising Aftermath

Photo Credit- AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

It’s been almost two weeks since Hurricane Michael rocked our area, and I haven’t really known what to say. I still don’t, honestly. It looked like it was headed our direction and at the last minute, it moved east and gained in strength. Hurricane Michael ended up hitting about 30 miles east and was only one MPH shy of being a Cat 5. To say we got lucky is an understatement.

The shitty part of that “luck” is that other towns weren’t so fortunate. Panama City, Mexico Beach, Lynn Haven, and countless others have been completely ravaged. Some of these places have been totally wiped off the map. The images are raw, devastating, and awe-inducing. My social media feed is filled with pictures and videos of downed trees, power lines, and concrete slabs that used to be people’s homes. It is overwhelming to see. I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut every time I see another photo.

The other thing I see, however, is hope, compassion, and whole towns coming together. Every day there are new calls to action regarding donations, drop off points, and people getting groups of volunteers together. And this is only the beginning. There are already numerous benefits and fundraisers taking place all over town.

It’s amazing to see how much good can be done when communities band together and focus on a common goal.

Panama City after Hurricane Michael
Photo Credit- Shelly Swanger Photography

Two weeks ago, our Facebook feeds were filled with anger and sarcasm and a layer of constant, underlying tension. I’m not very good at ignoring the noise, so I try to unfollow people who constantly post antagonistic content. I have to stay out of the comment sections because my Smart Ass will rear her ugly head. Sadly, though, there are times that I get so irritated that I jump right up on my high horse and get in the thick of things. And I KNOW in the moment that I’m not convincing anyone, but sometimes I can’t help myself so it’s better if I shift my focus.

Shouting down the opposite side of an issue does nothing but further entrench us in our own opinions.

There is so much going on in our world that is dividing us. Since Hurricane Michael, however, it seems like we’ve realized that in the end those things don’t matter quite as much. We get so busy trying to prove we’re right that we forget about the person on the other side of the keyboard. Before Michael, we were all pointing fingers and digitally screaming at each other, but now we’re working to help people in the worst situations imaginable. Why can’t we keep that focus all the time?

Every time tragedy strikes, a new hashtag emerges and we hear speeches about how the citizens from that town will show the world what it means to survive.

But honestly, this is simply what people do. It is humanity at its core.

In times of crisis and despair, we band together and put petty bullshit aside to focus on what’s truly important. We work tirelessly to fit the pieces of our lives back together in some semblance of order and try to rebuild what was. Nobody cares anymore about sexual orientations, race, income levels, or political parties. The only thing that matters is that people are suffering in towns just a few miles from our own. This is America at its finest, when we have seemingly been at our most divisive.

Why is that? Why does it take a situation being at its worst, to bring out our best? Is it so hard to treat each other with the same level of kindness and compassion, regardless of circumstance? It is incredibly easy to label each other, but we are more multi-dimensional than that. We all take a journey that forms our opinions and decisions, and we should remember that.

I hold pretty tight to the whole “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me” idea, so I rarely give people the chance to fool me twice. While I still feel that is be a valid idea, I have learned that I need to do a better job of giving people more credit. My opinions of people have changed a lot since Hurricane Michael hit. It is so important to stand up for what you believe in, but I have learned that I need to work on my approach.

It seems like the art of having a civil conversation has been lost somewhere in our phone screens, and the only way we think we can get through is with snark and a clever meme.

There is a video of Lady Gaga and the Dalai Lama at the US Conference of Mayors that has recently popped up on my news feed. It’s from months ago, but it has made the internet rounds again and I’ve watched it several times over the last few days. Towards the end of the video, she says this:

“We need to shift the perspective . The solution is that we need to build a kinder and braver world. We are unified in our humanity and the only thing that we all know, we all appreciate in one another, is kindness. So this has to come before all things. And you must operate relentlessly in this way. With everything you have.”

Eventually, people will begin to move on from this storm. We will go back to our lives and social media will again be filled with pop culture, politics, and division. The holidays are around the corner and we will be eager to share our Thanksgiving tables and Elf shenanigans. It will be very easy to forget this sense of “we’re all in this together” that is so strong right now. I challenge myself to operate relentlessly in kindness, and I hope that you’ll join me.

At the end of it all, what matters most is that we are trying to do our hardest to make it through the day and live a life we can be proud of. Everyone wants the best for ourselves and our families. While that may take different forms for each of us, the intention is the same. What better way can we rebuild from Hurricane Michael than to remember that?

If you are a Destin/30A local and would like to drop off donations, here is a short list of locations.

Hurricane Michael donation drop off locations
Image Credit- Mandy Cooper, Beachy Beach 30A Real Estate

For other ways to help with donations or volunteering, check out these links:

Volunteer Florida-
Food for Thought-
The Sonder Project-
Mighty Mama Fundrasier-
Destin 30A Moms Blog-

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