Paying it forward

August 21, 2011

Today was spent arranging for a rental, buying a few clothes and necessities, and dealing with the insurance claim for yesterday’s accident. (See my blog titled “Third time not so lucky” for more details.)

Fortunately, we were staying at my sister’s place so our basic needs of food, water, and shelter were taken care of. I was able to focus on the next layer of needs: transportation, clothing, toiletries. Because of my having to focus on these needs, not a lot of other items were completed. The accident reduced my day down to the necessities and actions of basic living.

I am very fortunate to have a support network of friends and relatives. This has allowed me to deal with the crises and disasters that I have experienced over the past few years. I have been able to move forward. My time and energy were not all wrapped up in finding shelter, food, and water.

What I have dealt with in the past few years is not unique. There are thousands of people who deal with these same types of crises and disasters. Not all of these people have the strong support network that I have. Every time I experience another crisis, disaster, or emotional trauma, I am reminded of how blessed I am to have this solid network of support. I wonder how others are able to continue with their lives without this benefit.

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to continue on with life when there are people stepping up to help. When I was diagnosed with cancer, my family flew to my side to ensure I had what I needed. My friends provided food, money, and emotional support. They helped meet my children’s needs by taking them out to the movies, ensuring they knew help was a phone call away. I could concentrate on my body’s needs, the surgery, the chemotherapy, and the radiation treatments. I had time to rest and heal.

When the wildfire burned down my house, my oldest and his roommates were there to provide a safe haven. My friends provided us with a permanent place to live. Other friends donated furniture and household necessities. My family assured me they were there should I need more help. I was able to concentrate on the insurance requirements, and the emotional needs of my family. (See my blogs titled “Stuff” and “Out of the inferno” for more details on how my friends and family helped me during the wildfire.)

When the car accident occurred, my family opened their doors. Friends and family adjusted their schedules in order to allow the flexibility I needed. The need for us to stay longer than originally planned easily accommodated. Once again, I was able to concentrate on the insurance requirements. And on the physical and emotional wellbeing of my family.

When there is a major disaster, such as a wildfire, earthquake or tsunami, people around the world help out. Food, money, and other necessities are eagerly donated. Relief aid organizations surge forward with their expertise and organize donations. These are desperately needed by those experiencing the crises and disasters.

But what about the other events that traumatize people? The individual events? The car accident that leaves a family without its breadwinner. The house fire that destroys another family’s precious belongings. The layoff that results in a family being without a home and basic necessities. The cancer diagnosis that decimates a family’s savings account. These events don’t make the front page of the newspapers. They often don’t result in any news report. Families are left struggling on their own, unless they have a support network to fall back onto.

Many families today don’t live near their relatives. Employment often requires families to leave the areas where they have support networks. If they have time to establish themselves in a new community, then they have a new support network. But if they are new to a community, they are very much alone. Left to struggle by themselves.

The only hope they have is in a friendly neighbour. Someone on their block willing to extend a welcoming hand. Someone willing to invite a stranger over for a cup of tea or coffee, for a Sunday barbeque, for a “getting to know you” evening event. Then when a disaster or crisis does happen, they have at least one friendly face to call upon.

When my teens and I moved into a new neighbourhood because of the wildfire, the next door neighbour ensured that we knew she was there. She had a network of people to call upon for help. All we had to do was give her a list. Through her network, we were able to get more items that we needed for our new home. Even though we didn’t know her network of people, they were available to help us, through her.

Thankfully, she was willing to extend a helping hand to a stranger. And now, I watch for newcomers to the neighbourhood so I can do the same.

See my blog titled “Connecting to your community” for more suggestions on how to build a supportive network.

See my blog titled “There’s always a silver lining” to read how my supportive network changes as a result of the various disasters and crises that I’ve experienced over the past few years.


    1. Thanks. Sometimes we get so caught up in our own issues that we forget those around of us who might need a helping hand. And often, that helping hand requires such a little action on our part.

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