What Sandy and Charlie taught me about human connection and perspective and how work put those lessons to use


Hurricane Sandy

We all have our selfish moments – moments where we focus on the “I” and the “me.” It doesn’t make us horrible human beings. In fact, in my opinion, it makes us human. Call it remnants of Darwinian self-preservation or call it subdued narcissism – it happens. And we all cope with these feelings differently, whether we voice them or  we cover up the fact that we could ever be so human and disguise it with sanctimonious preaching about the delineations between right and wrong as though it is something black and white.

Recently, as a resident of Long Island, I felt some of the effects of Hurricane Sandy. A panel of siding fell off of my house, the electric went out, and I took one cold shower and then washed my hair in the sink. I’ll admit that I complained and that I loathed my cold bed in the early morning while other people lacked a bed to sleep in and the flood insurance to bring it back.

And then I felt guilt – which is natural (and also part of the never-ending cycle that I fully believe our society is currently built on). So the guilt sank in and I curled up in bed and read a book that a friend, Brandon, had loaned me titled The Perks of Being A Wallflower. I read it twice that night – cover to cover each time – and I cried each time. This is because there’s a part of the book towards the end where Charlie, the narrator, begins reflecting on something called perspective. Charlie comes to a conclusion (that some may disagree with) that even though perspective is important to have, you cannot invalidate feelings by feeling guilt or applying generalities as to who has it worse and who has it better. Because emotions are our own – even the guilt is ours and it makes us human.

Where am I going with this? Well, the other day my power was turned on and I started thinking about the people affected by Hurricane Sandy who were the hardest hit. The guilt sank in again.

But then, I started thinking about the words of a fictional boy who’d just experienced more in his first year of high school than many do in a lifetime and I realized I had come to a point in the road where I had to make a choice. I could choose to feel guilty or I could do like many of my Facebook friends have done; get online and say that this organization isn’t doing enough and that person is so ungrateful and the problem with this generation is that we’re all ungrateful. But, I am grateful and I hate generalities.

Instead, I came into work and there was a moment where we all looked around at each other – some of us had just had a cold shower and were dealing with damage to our homes, others were pleased to have had their power turned on in the recent hours – all of us were grateful to see that the people to our left and to our right were safe.

There was the moment that we discussed that our company, fishbat, should be doing something for others who were affected – something outside of the scope of what a social media agency would normally do in this situation. So we began collecting donations and rallying to become a drop-off point for a hunger relief organization – we committed part of our weekend to community outreach and helping in anyway we could.

That was when the guilt subsided a bit. And that was when I had my own epiphany about perspective and human contact.

If we strip away all of the electricity and the guilt and the sanctimony and the selfishness and the tendency that we have to compare our situation as being better or worse than someone else’s – if we strip all of that away and look at our neighbors and hang on to the hope that things will be okay because regardless of what we do or do not have – we have moments of awareness where we know we have each other – then things are okay and opportunity comes out of tragedy.

And that’s what Charlie taught me.

And that’s what Sandy taught me.

And that’s what fishbat taught me.

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Image via ABC News and Nana Gouvêa.

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