In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, many neighbors who hardly knew each other are making friends, huddling together and bailing each other out, quite literally. Many are learning how essential it is to love your neighbor.
I read a study a while ago that showed that loving your neighbors (or at least knowing them) can be key to your own survival in a natural disaster. See this link: The Key To Disaster Survival? Friends and Neighbors.
The article reports that the people who are most likely to survive a disaster are those who are well connected with their neighborhood. Firetrucks or ambulances aren’t responsible for most rescues — quick-thinking neighbors are. The more friendly connections a person has, the more quickly they get help and critical information.
I’ve been blessed in this way myself. The neighborhood where I’ve lived for about 15 years has had our share of “events,” and we’ve had plenty of opportunities to help each other. A few years ago, rain flooded our basements with about two feet of water. Last summer, a windstorm blew trees down onto our houses and power lines. (One neighbor commented afterward: “Whew – so glad we’re done with our yearly disaster.”)
Just a few weeks ago my neighbors came to my rescue yet again in a minor emergency – my toaster oven had caught on fire. For several moments I was paralyzed by the orange-yellow flames inside. Should I open the little door and throw the burning food in the sink? Or keep the door closed to keep oxygen from rushing in, so that it will burn out? Should I blast it with my fire extinguisher and ruin hundreds of dollars of books on the shelf below? Finally, armed with potholders, I carried the smoldering mass out my door.
In the few moments I hesitated, though, my little house filled with acrid, billowing smoke – the stink was horrible. My windows and shades were grey with soot. I expected that my furniture and carpet would absorb the stench and I’d have weeks of cleaning to do. But friendly neighbors quickly rounded up several fans to pull air through the house. The next day, one neighbor with professional cleaning experience swabbed down my kitchen.
This was only one of many times they had come to my aid. I don’t think anyone had seen it as a spiritual act, but as just being neighborly. We’re all just regular folks, but I can’t imagine living without this “Mayberry” of friends who have learned how to love their neighbors.
P.S. One other piece of practical wisdom for you: My 15 year old smoke alarm never went off, even though it beeped just fine when I tested it. They do not last forever. If you have an older one, you should think about replacing it.
(By the way, the pictures in this post are all from my own disasters of the past few years.)