Friday, January 4, 2013

On Being Prepared

Long time no blog!

I will never hound my favorite bloggers again for a lack of posts. Missing a few days turns into a few weeks and before you know it, it’s the New Year. Oops. (Luckily, I don't have any readers. Yet.)

Here’s something I wrote on November 1, 2012:

I'm sitting here at a PLC meeting four days after Hurricane Sandy hit NYC and my family, my home and I emerged completely unscathed.

Thank God for that.

The news of an impending storm came in with the same fanfare as a 6th grade sleepover. Most spent the weekend before joking on Facebook about stocking up on Oreos and board games and the potential of having a couple of bonus days off from work or school. This was the scenario I'd been hoping for! A rainy day on the couch with my husband watching movies and munching on grilled cheese sandwiches and creamy tomato soup? Sign me up! I'd lived through a hurricane before, anyhow. A year's worth of D batteries , a 5 day freshwater supply, taped up windows, and a healthy dose of fear had led up to a few downed trees but nothing more in August 2011. Most who evacuated Zone A later regretted it. The city claimed millions in damages but nothing I could readily see. Sandy would just be Irene's annoying little sister.

The morning after, however, waking up from night of carefree frivolity this past Tuesday emerged a very different scenario. Our home remained untouched, and fortunately, we were among those who never lost power, though the blocks and blocks around us remained dark for 3 full days. We turned on the news to find a city nearly unrecognizable. The Brooklyn Battery Tunnel was a river, Gerritsen Beach and Rockaway had turned into Atlantis, and the small tranquil community of Breezy Point looked like a set of a movie with a plot of the end of days.

We're still living in the wake of this disaster. I sit here so thankful for getting through this unharmed and without damage. We're praying for who are suffering and continue to look for ways to help them. Right now, there's a lot of chaos. Looks like the troop will be working with our chartered parish to start up a collection drive for immediate needs. While everyone wants to help, the biggest need right now is for monetary donations. It's more helpful for us to open our wallets and stay out of the way of emergency professionals, although I think everyone wants to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

I know for certain, however, that this, more than ever in New York City, is a time for Scouting.

Before Sandy hit, I was reflecting on last year's Hurricane Irene. At the time, my then-fiancĂ© was on a trip in Europe with his brothers, a last opportunity for them to go on an adventure before one of them became an old married man. The impending hurricane was a sensation. People were clearing battery operated radios and gallons of water off shelves. I remember going into survival mode. Even if my home remained safe, I could have been facing days without power or clean water. Unlike much of my city, however, I knew what to do. Thanks to my scouter soon-to-be husband (and my one year on camp staff) I already had access to several lanterns, a propane stove, rain gear, all the Nalgene bottles I could possibly want, water purification systems and proper clothing layers to stay warm (or stay cool as it was August in New York). I knew I had everything I could need to not only survive, should it come to that, but live quite comfortably for extended periods of time if necessary. And more than gear, I had knowledge – to know where the safest place in the house, to get to where I needed to be in the event that search and rescue teams needed to get to me. I knew all of this even without my Boy Scout boyfriend. It dawned on me that most people are not prepared for these kind of situations.

Every year at summer camp, the conversation always comes up among the adults about the skill of living without electricity and the comforts of home for weeks at a time. Sure, summer camp isn’t exactly a survival contest – after all, we have access to hot showers and ice and running water and portioned raw ingredients to pick up at the commissary three meals a day at our patrol cooking camp (not to mention the opportunity to recharge cell phones and check your email in the Scoutmaster’s Lounge in the camp office when you care to make the trip). But mostly, it’s you, your tent, and a fire to cook over for two straight weeks. You learn to work within your environment – you may not be the most comfortable you can be, but you learn what works and what doesn’t. And every year, we witness new campers with soggy sleeping bags after a night of rain because their tent wasn’t staked correctly or eating PB & J breakfast because they haven’t mastered the temperature control necessary to cook pancakes on a sheepherder stove. And we get to watch the older boys teach them the tips and tricks to churn out a meal their mothers would be proud of. Then before you know it, the first-year campers have become the fifth-year campers and that same boy who could barely pour milk on his own cereal is the same one helping the younger scouts set up their KP station. He may not be involved in scouting for the rest of his life, but you know that someday, should a natural disaster or some other emergency situation arise, those skills – survival and leadership – will kick in. He’ll know what to do. He’ll be prepared.

This is a time for Scouting.

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