Friday, November 11, 2011
Nothing like becoming a total “have not” for 8 days to get me thinking about Occupy Wall Street. A couple of weeks ago, Storm Alfred blew through CT and dumped wet snow on our leaf-laden trees, leaving them no choice but to snap under the weight and smash everything in its descent down – including power lines (my neighbor's house is somewhere under those 3 fallen trees in the above picture). With only 4% of people in my relatively well-to-do town with electrical power, I did not lose sight of the irony of being in the 96%. Nor did I pretend it didn’t absolutely stink. In terms of OWS, I’m already in the 99%, but it hit closer to home when my shower, heat, cooking capacity and general comfort were pulled out from beneath my feet.
When projections were made about restoring 99% of people back to power by the end of the week, we all joked about desperately wanting to be in the 99%. It all depends on who has and who has not.
Shivering in the house with my three girls and dog staring at me, breath visible in the frigid air, I quickly became a “have not.”
My best friend, Lizzy, who lives an hour away, offered us her warm home. A “have,” by virtue of Alfred’s mood to zip through the center of the state and spare the coastline, she was toasty warm with all amenities available. I began fantasizing about doing laundry and booting up my computer to send an email. She appreciated my situation even more because Irene took her power away back in August and she took refuge at her stepson’s house. She had been a “have not” and valued the open doors of the “have” in her family. Tables turned, she was joyful to be a “have” and be generous.
Through text, I learned that most of my family in CT, except for my mother, were in the “have not” category. Had one of our homes had power, the entire family would have camped out there. This was the presumption. Looking back, I appreciate the close-knit feeling in the family system. "Mi casa su case" is a way of life in some families and the one I married into definitely shares that value. But, at that point, no one had power so we jumped in the car and drove to Lizzy’s for a few days (Mom had just come back from being away for 2 weeks and I didn't want to bug her. Remember, the dog is with us now).
At Lizzy's, every moment was spent in gratitude. “Be generous in prosperity and thankful in adversity” is a quote I reach for quite often. I was definitely thankful.
After a few days with no power, Tim started saying, “Wouldn’t it be great if we had power? We could have a big party and host all the people with no power.” Suddenly, being a “have not” left us with thoughts of what it would be like to be a “have.” Sometimes I notice people do this with the lottery. “If I won the lottery, I’d give everyone a thousand dollars!” It’s fun to imagine being a “have” when you’re a “have not.”
But I also know that generosity is an issue of the heart, not of the wallet. Some of the most generous people I know have little spare change. Whatever small amount they have, though, is yours if you need it.
After 8 days of inconvenience (I won’t call it struggle because, seriously, compared to the rest of the world, how much of a real struggle was being without modern amenities?), our power was returned. We became a “have.” Of course, we were joyous and thrilled, jumping up and down, screaming with excitement. Until we then realized that 51% of the town was still cold.
We pulled our resources together and made some phone calls, inviting our “have nots” to our status of “have,” trying to become the generous in a prosperous situation, knowing that being a “have” comes with an obligation to be sure others are taken care of. Some people took us up on our offer. Others had made previous plans, but all in all, either someone was giving or receiving during this trying time. Very few people just stayed to themselves.
Because it is inhumane to sit in a warm, lit home and look across the street and be content knowing your neighbor is cold and without light. We were pushed out of our comfort zone and appreciated how the “have nots” were feeling at night in the dark, cold homes.
Now, I ask myself, why don’t I see the injustice every day?
If I have, I must give.
It’s that simple.